UW Hospital

UW Hospital is part of UW Health, which with UnityPoint Health-Meriter has taken steps toward a joint operating agreement between the organizations and a merger of their health insurance plans.

AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Nine months after UW Health and UnityPoint Health-Meriter announced plans for a joint operating agreement and a merger of health insurance plans, the organizations have signed formal agreements and been cleared by the Federal Trade Commission, they said Monday.

The joint operating agreement between Meriter and UW Health will give the organizations a shared financial bottom line.

The organizations have competed against one another more in recent years, but they have collaborated on some services, including sleep care, infertility care, dialysis, plastic surgery, mother-baby care and the Madison Surgery Center.

The new agreement will expand the collaboration to all clinical care. It will alleviate the need for new construction and shift some patients from UW Hospital, which is often full, to Meriter, which has extra capacity, leaders of the organizations said last year.

The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance still must approve the planned merger of UnityPoint Health’s Physicians Plus Insurance Corp. with Unity Health Plans and Gundersen Health Plan, which is affiliated with Gundersen Health System.

The Unity and Gundersen plans merged last year.

“Although the organizations have reached important milestones in the process, nothing changes operationally today for patients, members or employees as a result,” a statement Monday said.

Eventually, this combining of the health plans will give members a greater choice of providers, products and plans, the statement said.

Final closing of the agreements is expected this summer.

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David Wahlberg is the health and medicine reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.