Nursing home giant Signature Healthcare pushes into insurance industry

Signature Healthcare, one of the country's largest nursing facility companies, is quickly nearing its entry into the health insurance business. Enrollment for Signature Healthcare residents will begin in October.

The Louisville-based SNF operator registered a company called Signature Advantage LLC with the Kentucky Department of Insurance in March, according to Louisville Business First. The new company is defined as a “provider-sponsored organization,” or a provider group that accepts full risk for beneficiaries lives in exchange for a fixed monthly payment.

Signature Advantage is one of the first companies of its kind to be approved by both the state of Kentucky and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Signature President and CEO Joe Steier told Louisville Business First. Joining Signature in the new venture is AllyAlign Health, a long-term care risk management firm.

Having its own insurance company will allow Signature to have a “deeper alignment” with its physicians, and fight the push from the insurance industry to give providers lower reimbursement rates, Steier said. He also cited the insurance industry's financial upside for companies willing to take risks.

Recent consolidation in the health insurance industry wasn't a driver in Signature's decision, but “the timing is good, considering the circumstances,” he said. He expects to get “very heavy into the insurance space,” he added.

Humana, another Louisville-based company that started out as a SNF provider before making the jump to insurance, is slated to be acquired by Aetna Inc. in a $37 billion deal announced last month. Steier noted that consolidation of insurance companies could be “worrisome” for providers, and lead to lower reimbursements.

According to the company, Signature Advantage aims to have 600 to 1,000 members covered next year, beginning in Kentucky and moving to Indiana and Florida in the coming years.

Signature Healthcare operates 126 facilities in 10 states, encompassing more than 14,000 beds, making it the 7th-biggest in the nation, according to the American Health Care Association. The company also operates critical access hospitals, home care services and other healthcare organizations.