BankAmerica Corp. officials said they are forming a unit to develop integrated payment services for consumers and health care providers.
The bank has proposed to several potential health care customers a service in which BankAmerica would receive patients' checks, and insurers' electronic payment information and funds, and would consolidate the data for doctors' and hospitals' record keeping.
The new unit, called BankAmerica Health Information Services, will be supervised by Colin Klipin, executive vice president and head of corporate services, including cash management.
|A Lot of Variables'
Many banks see a big potential for fee income in promoting health care payments, but programs have been slow to take off.
American Express Corp. last year was disappointed by insurers' response to a health care credit card that would be used in conjunction with electronic filing of insurance forms.
The program, called Quattro, has since been revamped and is slated for a new test this fall.
BankAmerica declined to project income from the new business unit.
"There are a lot of variables," said Robert Winn, senior vice president. Among them are what the Clinton administration will do to reform the nation's health care system and how quickly the industry will automate.
"The market needs a venture that meets the cash flow needs of medical providers," said Joel Friedman, a banking consultant with Andersen Consulting Co., in San Francisco.
The Bank of America venture "is an indication there is a significant under-banked market."
Mr. Winn said the bank aims to give providers "one-stop shopping" that combines paper-handling and automated transfer of information and payments.
An |Important Line'
Americans spend about $150 billion annually on medical care, and of that, about 20% goes to administrative and billing costs, according to health care industry estimates.
From $3 billion to $10 billion of the health care industry's administrative costs could be saved by automating claims processing, payments and remittances, enrollment, and eligibility services, said Bank of America vice chairman Marty Stein, citing estimates by a group convened by the U.S. Depth. of Health and Human Services last year.
The unit does not yet have staff or budget allocated to it, said Robert Winn, senior vice president in charge of the project. He said that those decisions would be made by the fourth quarter.
Better Customer Service
"There are a lot of people in this market, and we've been asked, |Where is B of A in this?' "We consider this an important line of business to the bank."
Longer term, BankAmerica says it will develop services that would improve customer service in the health care arena. BankAmerica could, for example, answer inquiries about the eligibility of a patient for coverage under a certain plan, track the status of claims, and reconcile remittance advice and payments.
The service that BankAmerica is currently promoting would integrate collections and disbursement services currently offered to corporate customers into a single program for health care providers.
The bank would receive electronic payments and remittance data from an insurer, then consolidate that information with data from all other insurance companies that have a relationship with a particular doctor or hospital.
It would provide the doctor or hospital with one stream of information so they could easily update their billing and accounts receivable.
The patients' own payments would be routed to a special health care lockbox service, and be merged with the other data.