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Another hospital-insurer merger

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An affiliate of St. Louis-based Ascension Health plans to buy Sterling Heights, Mich.-based U.S. Health and Life Insurance Co. for $50 million, reports Modern Healthcare.

Ascension Health is the parent of Warren, Mich.-based St. John Providence Health System, a five-hospital system, and nine other hospitals in  the Wolverine State.

This is part of a growing national trend of hospital systems uniting with insurance companies — a  very happy sign for efforts to control healthcare costs. Hospital systems that own insurance companies have a powerful incentive to control costs, an incentive that they have not had before in the virtually out-of-control fee-for-service, cost-plus system.

Modern Healthcare reported that “Joseph Aoun, healthcare lawyer with Nuyen, Tomtishen and Aoun in Ann Arbor, said the acquisition of USHL will provide {Ascension affiliate} Together Health Network, a physician-led clinically integrated network, with the ability to participate in the state’s health insurance exchange.”

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