- Intermountain Healthcare is launching an outpatient imaging business, Tellica Imaging, which will open three standalone locations later this year, the system announced Monday.
- Intermountain plans to expand Tellica's footprint over the next few years with as many as five locations planned for next year, with more to come after that, the Salt Lake City-based health system said.
- The strategy is to provide standalone imaging centers closer to where people live, providing easier access to these services in non-emergency situations. The centers will focus on providing MRIs and CT scans at "flat-rate prices" that "fall below the costs" in hospitals, the system said.
Insurers have targeted hospital-based imaging services for their high prices and have issued policies to shift care away from pricey hospitals and instead to freestanding facilities.
UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and Anthem have all taken steps to try to move imaging services to less expensive settings.
UnitedHealthcare said imaging can be as much as 165% more costly when performed in a hospital outpatient department compared with a freestanding facility. The nation's largest private insurer said this summer it's committed to ensuring that more than 55% of radiology services are delivered at "high-quality, cost-efficient sites of care by 2030."
Cigna outlined when it's appropriate and when it will cover imaging at a hospital-based setting, but noted that freestanding facilities may offer Cigna members a lower-cost alternative.
In 2017, Anthem officials said they were fed up with the "enormous" price variation between providers and instituted a policy to shift care away from hospitals.
For Intermountain, which operates 25 hospitals, the move to form a subsidiary imaging company may be in response to these shifting policies.
In the state of Utah, 70% of residents were insured through commercial plans, and some of the largest commercial insurers there include Cigna and UnitedHealthcare, according to data compiled by AHIP in 2021.
Intermountain's latest announcement comes on the heels of its recent merger deal with SCL Health to form an $11 billion system. The move gives Intermountain a competing position in two additional states, Colorado and Montana, where SCL has leading market positions.