A Medical Device Daily

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (Phoenix) and Banner Health said that they will enter into a new joint venture, to be known as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Advantage (BCBSAZ Advantage), in which both companies will participate equally to bring enhanced Medicare services to Arizonans. The venture brings two premier organizations together with a common goal of improving the quality of patient care, enhancing wellness management and affordability for people enrolled in Medicare.

BCBSAZ Advantage will include Medicare Advantage plans for seniors in Maricopa County and portions of Pinal County, currently known as Banner MediSun Medicare Health Plan, including their MediSunONE Classic, MediSunONE Plus and MediSunONE Premier plans.

By aligning their shared interests and capabilities, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Banner Health will deliver value to Arizonans enrolled in Medicare programs by offering them the stability of two premier organizations that share a vision for the future delivery of healthcare that inspires people to live healthy and productive lives, and provides highly coordinated care when it's needed.

“This is an opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of the Blue Cross Blue Shield brand to position our company to more efficiently and effectively serve expanding markets in the government sector,“ said Richard Boals, president/CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “By joining with Banner to offer Medicare products, we're now able to offer a broader range of services that furthers our position to compete as an industry leader during a transformative time in the healthcare industry.“

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona currently offers Medicare supplement and prescription drug plans (Part D) to more than 23,000 Arizonans. Through the joint venture with Banner Health, it's estimated the companies will be serving 25,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees. Current Banner MediSun members will be able to keep their coverage intact as both companies are committed to focusing their efforts on making this a smooth and positive transition for members and employees alike. All terms are subject to final regulatory approval.

“This new collaboration with a proven community partner like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona clearly shows that when two leading organizations are so closely aligned, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts,“ said Peter S. Fine, president and chief executive officer of Banner Health. “This is an ideal opportunity for Banner to leverage our comprehensive network of quality providers who are supported and linked by an electronic medical records system and other enabling technologies that are unmatched in Arizona.“

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona also recently announced the launch of BlueAlliance, an innovative health insurance product offering lower premiums by using Banner Health Network's local network of more than 2,500 healthcare providers in the Maricopa County area. BlueAlliance is the lowest-priced health plan available for small businesses in the entire Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona portfolio of health plans, which traditionally have focused on a broader network of more than 18,000 participating providers.

In other agreements/contracts, GeneCentric (Durham, North Carolina) said that it has been launched with two separate exclusive licenses to diagnostic technologies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The company was co-founded in 2011 by two pioneers in cancer research, Drs. Charles Perou and Neil Hayes, who discovered molecular signatures critical in distinguishing clinically relevant subtypes of lung cancer.

GeneCentric in-licensed the Lung Subtype Platform (LSP) from UNC-Chapel Hill based upon data demonstrating that the LSP technology can distinguish multiple subtypes of lung cancer based upon a genetic fingerprint from a tumor sample. These results were first published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2006, with additional publications over the past 2 years.

In addition to the LSP technology, GeneCentric, has entered into a licensing agreement with the University that grants GeneCentric exclusive worldwide commercial right to a 13-gene VEGF signature associated with distant metastases and poor outcomes.