While Des Moines hospitals plot to expand to the suburbs, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is quietly looking at opening a facility in downtown Des Moines, Skinny hears. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all hush-hush, but one factor that makes it even more intriguing: The favored site, in the Gateway area on the north side of Grand Avenue, is also a site being considered by Wellmark for a new corporate headquarters. Wellmark and the University Hospitals had a to-the-death fight two years ago Ã¢â‚¬â€ one that cost Wellmark chief John Forsyth his seat on the Board of Regents Ã¢â‚¬â€ and animosities linger. So it could get pretty interesting. Meantime, Skinny is told that Wellmark is ready and willing to sell the old J.C. Penney building to Polk County, which would put offices there and save taxpayers millions by not building a new courthouse. Some county officials are leaning toward doing this, if the price can be worked out, though they would prefer to swap the Polk County Convention Complex at Fifth Street and Grand Avenue for the Penney building. Wellmark owns the other half of the block that contains the Complex and could build a campus-like headquarters there. Wellmark has told the county it might be interested in that deal, but it keeps putting off discussions on it. Now the reason is clear: It apparently is actively looking at the Gateway site instead.... And if either Wellmark or the University Hospitals does build on the Gateway site, look for a new hotel to go up there as well Ã¢â‚¬â€ and not up by the Wells Fargo Arena. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Settlement paves way for new WDM hospital
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
June 29, 2007
Plans for one of two West Des Moines hospitals leapt forward today with the announcement that the stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s largest health insurer would drop a lawsuit against it.
Mercy Medical Center announced that Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield had agreed to drop its lawsuit against MercyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s suburban project.
Wellmark spokeswoman Angela Feig said Mercy agreed to accept Ã¢â‚¬Å“substantially lowerÃ¢â‚¬Â payments at the suburban hospital than it receives for the same services at its downtown headquarters. She declined to be more specific. Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure you understand itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s competitive information,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said.
Wellmark's purchase of those 18 acres near the Wells Fargo campus in West Des Moines is part of a chess game with the hospitals, not a commitment to building a new headquarters there, insiders tell Skinny. The company wants to stay downtown, but the piece of land it really wants--on Grand Avenue across from the Gateway Park--is controlled by Iowa Health Systems, which Wellmark is suing over the hospital's plans to build a new facility in West Des Moines. Because of the suit, Iowa Health isn't inclined to cut any good deals for Wellmark, a real-estate source tells Skinny, so Wellmark is using the West Des Moines purchase as a threat to hold over Des Moines city officials, saying in effect: Pressure Iowa Health into giving us a good deal, or we'll leave town. Some pretty big names--corporate and political--are in the game, but it's not always clear whose side some of these folks are on.
Complicating matters: University Hospitals of Iowa City is eyeing some of that same Gateway land as a possible site for a building it would like to put up in Des Moines...
A further complication: Aviva, the huge British insurance company that bought Amerus, is looking for a downtown site for its US headquarters, but the Wellmark maneuvers--Wellmark also controls a key half block adjacent to the Convention Complex (which also is available)--make it more difficult for Aviva to grab a site...
I'm gonna go out on a limb. The limb might snap and I might fall and break my neck. I bet in the next week or two it will be announced that Wellmark's lawsuit with Iowa Health has been settled. Everybody gets kissy-face and everyone comes out a winner.
DM Register wrote:UI, Wellmark discuss naming UI health college
July 5, 2007
The University of Iowa and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield are talking about a major gift for naming the university's new College of Public Health building.
Interim University President Gary Fethke declined to reveal the amount of the gift but praised Wellmark's involvement.
"I am thrilled that Wellmark would consider donating to the College of Public Health," Fethke said.
He said it would be unusual to have a college named after a company, but that he is not thinking so much about the name of the building as the partnership between the university and Wellmark.
In the past, colleges have been named after individuals who have made significant contributions to the university. For example, the College of Medicine is named after Roy and Lucille Carver, and the College of Business is named after Henry Tippie.
The Iowa Board of Regents would have to sign off on the name and Regent Robert Downer raised concerns ab out a possible conflict of interest because of continuing contractual relationships between the university and Wellmark.
Downer said he understood the amount of the gift would be $15 million for the college, which does research on various public health issues.
"I am concerned that there not be any skewing of conclusion of this research because of the funding, which I don't think there would be," he said. "But then you get into perception, which I think you need to look at carefully."
Wellmark is a major payer to the University of Iowa Hospitals and administers insurance plans for all the state's public universities.
Construction on the $40 million College of Public Health building is expected to begin this fall.
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