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City Delays Decision On Renown Vs. St. Mary's

Alexa Ard

  Reno City Council has postponed a decision on whether to switch its health care provider exclusively from St. Mary's to Renown Health. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

Members of city council expressed concern this week that switching hospitals could create a monopoly for Renown, which recently gained contracts with the Washoe County School District and the city of Sparks.

All three are members of the Nevada Health Partners, a coalition of the area’s largest employers that negotiates hospital contracts for their insurance policies.

Right now, city employees are able to choose their own hospital by selecting from two different plans. About 500 employees and their dependents would be affected by the switch from St. Mary's.

Councilwoman Neoma Jardon says there are too many unknowns right now.

"First off I'd like to know what the savings is to the city of Reno and the taxpayers for the switch, two, how long is the contract ... and third how is Renown going to handle that load January 1?" she asked.

The city spends about $25 million on health care for its employees and retirees. It's unclear how much money, if any, would be saved by switching.

Helen Lidholm, CEO of St. Mary's Health Network, says the plan would hurt health care competition.

"With all due respect, I think patient needs in our community are far more important than one hospital's bottom line," she says.

Renown lawyer Bill McGrath defended the contract, saying the choice had been thoroughly vetted by the 13 members that make up the health care coalition.

“Renown is not forcing this down anyone’s throat," he says. "That was picked by the Nevada Health Partners Group.”

The Council will next consider the Renown contract later this month.

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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