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Altoona hospital system considering bids from UPMC, Highmark, Geisinger

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Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 6:10 p.m.
 

Three of Pennsylvania's biggest health care companies are in competition for Altoona Regional Health System, a 380-bed nonprofit hospital operator.

The system has discussed the possibility of being acquired by UPMC, Highmark Inc. and Geisinger Health System, said David Cuzzolina, a spokesman for Altoona Regional.

“We invited potential partners to share their visions of the future of health care in Pennsylvania,” Cuzzolina said. “In any partnership ... it's important that we are able to grow and offer more medical services locally.”

Altoona Regional's board, which is in discussions to partner with the 44-bed Nason Hospital in Altoona, has set no deadline for deciding on whether to pursue an agreement with UPMC, Highmark or Geisinger.

Cuzzolina said the three organizations are the only ones that provided presentations to Altoona Regional's board on a possible partnership.

UPMC, the largest hospital system in Western Pennsylvania with 19 hospitals, has acquired hospitals outside of Pittsburgh, including UPMC Hamot in Erie, UPMC Northwest in Seneca, and UPMC Bedford, but it does not own anything in Altoona.

UPMC spokesman Paul Wood declined to comment.

Highmark, the state's largest health insurance company, is creating a $1 billion health system to compete with UPMC. It has announced acquisition deals with West Penn Allegheny Health System, St. Vincent Health System in Erie and Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Jefferson Hills.

Highmark spokesman Michael Weinstein declined to comment on Altoona Regional, only saying, “We have been talking with physicians and community hospitals throughout the region to identify health care providers that share Highmark's vision of transforming health care and improving quality and coordination of care for patients.”

Geisinger, an eight-hospital health system and health insurer based in Danville, is interested in expanding the services it offers in and around Altoona, spokeswoman Sue Baranik said.

“We did have a meeting with Altoona Regional and did present to their board,” Baranik said. “We don't know when Altoona Regional will make that decision.”

Altoona Regional posted income from operations of $6.4 million for the 12 months ended June 30, Cuzzolina said. It expects to release full financial results by the end of the year.

In the prior year, the system lost $14.7 million from operations, according to financial statements. It had long-term debt of $81.8 million and pension liability of $40 million as of Dec. 31.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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