CHARLESTON, S.C. -- This could be the year the bleeding stops at the state's largest HMO, the company's new president says.
HealthSource South Carolina saw a decade of steady profits before rising drug prices and expensive outpatient costs triggered losses in 1996 and 1997.
After struggling to top 145,000 members last year, it looks like 1998 will be the year for the managed care company to turn a profit, said Catherine N. Ferry, president and general manager of the Charleston-based subsidiary.
HealthSource increased premiums this winter in the five percent range, which will create more revenue. And Cigna Corp.'s $1.7 billion buyout last year can't hurt, Ms. Ferry said.
The Philadelphia-based insurance giant has gradually converted HealthSource from a hands-off company with each state subsidiary operating independently to a multifaceted health insurance business stitched together from national to local levels.
Instead of being a typical HMO, the company wants to market preferred provider plans and traditional indemnity insurance as well as promoting Cigna's other insurance lines such as life and accident, Ms. Ferry said.
And after some hospitals threatened to drop out of the system, saying payments were too slow, the company has taken steps to improve its turnaround time on claims, Ms. Ferry said.
A higher number of claims go for payment and are not reviewed, she said.
HealthSource South Carolina has 321 employees, including 50 in Columbia and Greenville and 271 in Charleston.
The company will be keeping the HealthSource name, at least for now, Ms. Ferry said.
"Cigna in this market is not a known entity," Ms. Ferry said. Still, the insurer is keeping its options open and may at some point want to drop HealthSource for Cigna, she said.