MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — West Virginia University Medicine has announced plans to launch its own health insurance services company, Peak Health.
The new company, which will be a nonprofit subsidiary of WVU Medicine, is set to launch Jan. 1, 2023 as an option for the health-care system’s more than 30,000 employees, said Ben Gerber, who will serve as president of Peak Health.
“We’re looking at approximately a 2023 date for our own employees — to start on Jan. 1, 2023,” he said. “We’re taking the next year or so to fully build out the platform and hire some key talent into some key roles so that we’re ready to go for launch.”
Peak Health will then look to expand to provide services to other self-funded employers in the state, according to Albert Wright, president and CEO of the WVU Health System.
“We ultimately aim to provide a full range of commercial and governmental insurance products,” he said.
Peak Health’s mission is to make health care more accessible, understandable, and collaborative, Wright said.
“We created Peak to address what we see as a frustrating lack of progress in helping West Virginians lead healthier and fuller lives,” Wright said. “West Virginia is home for our employees and their families, so this is about more than the numbers for us.
“This is about being brave enough to do something different to change the trajectory of the state when it comes to negative health outcomes and empowering clinicians and folks in the community to partner with us on that journey.”
Wright, who will serve as chair of Peak Health’s board, said the new company will be a key component of WVU Medicine’s effort to create a comprehensive system that “allows us to focus on improving the health of a patient and lowering the cost of care.”
“That is now a fundamental belief for us at WVU Medicine. It is something that I believe in 100%, our leadership team believes is necessary and our board of directors as well,” he said. “When something is a fundamental belief that you feel in your bones that you need to do to achieve your mission, you have to figure out different ways to go at it.”
While the new company will be fully owned by WVU Medicine, the health system’s leadership chose to brand it as its own distinct entity, Wright said.
“The reason we’re doing it as a new organization is that we want this to be something that others participate in,” he said. “This is not a narrow network health care product, but rather, hopefully, a product that other health systems join in with us and start to build that statewide network to improve the heath of West Virginia and the other areas we serve.”
Peak Health has already established its corporate headquarters in Morgantown and there are plans for other offices throughout the state, Wright said.
“What you won’t see is any outsourcing abroad or outsourcing to Pittsburgh or Hartford, Connecticut, or Minnesota,” he said. “A lot of large payers have a few players in the local market, but a lot of the back-end work is being done out-of-state. That’s just money that’s leaving our state. We want to keep it in our state and reinvest in our communities.”
The leadership at WVU Medicine plans to invest about $15 million into the company for initial startup costs and estimate it will spend about $10 million annually to cover operations costs, Gerber said.
The new company will lead to about 100 new jobs, with 10 already hired, Gerber said.
“We’re thinking 10 years-plus out,” he said. “This is a 10-year journey, not a three- or a five-year journey. I think we have the commitment of our organization to see this through. This is a long-term commitment to the state.”