News & Releases

Friday, September 12, 2008

Discount health network targets consumers, employers

Business First of Buffalo - by Tracey Drury Business First

Joseph Wolfson is no neophyte when it comes to electronic banking transactions.

But despite Wolfson’s history as founder of the Cartel and Metroteller automatic teller machine companies, it took five years to develop his latest effort and it may take a bit longer to fully break into his main target: the health-care industry.

HealthTransaction Network uses ATM-like cards to provide access to health care. The goal is to reach people who are uninsured or underinsured by providing access to primary care, preventative services and wellness care at discounted rates.

The network has three main customers:

  • Consumers, who can take advantage of discounted rates at participating hospitals and health-care
  • Employers who cannot afford to provide traditional health insurance for their workers;
  • Hospitals and health-care providers, which receive immediate payments through the network at
    pre-approved rates; and credit card processing services at lower processing rates.

Once registered as a participant, individuals receive a photo ID card with biometric fingerprint scan
to prevent abuse and fraudulent use. The individual or their employer could load any dollar amount
onto the card, or use their own credit/debit cards to make payments.

A typical user might be someone who has no health insurance or a limited policy through work. The
individual could walk into a participating hospital or provider and sign up for a card. Then they
choose whether to load dollars onto the card itself, or to pay by cash or credit. The individual could
then walk into any participant in the network and receive care at the discounted prices.

30 on board
More than 30 health-care organizations have signed up as members so far, including TLC Health
Network, Brooks Memorial Hospital, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the Medina
Memorial Health Care System
and MedFirst Urgent Care. Additionally, five independent
physicians groups have joined.

By Sept. 15, Wolfson expects the system to be up and running, with registration equipment installed
at the member organizations and the ability to issue cards to individuals. He plans to create a national
health-care network, starting in Western New York.

“The parallels of what we did in the electronic banking world and this are truly amazing,” Wolfson

A year ago, Lake Shore Savings Bank signed on as an investor and partner, providing settlements
for the credit/debit transactions. David Mancuso, president and CEO, says Wolfson’s background in
the field was a major selling point.

The challenge lies in getting the message out, he says.

Focus on wellness
By focusing on wellness and routine care, such as annual physicals and checkups, hospitals and
health-care providers may also identify more serious problems before they become acute, which
saves costs in the end for both the provider and the patient.

As the first independent electronic health- care network, the company also faces the challenge of
demonstrating to customers why it is relevant and needed. Hospital executives who have already
signed on say the benefits are simple: reduced costs and, hopefully, increased access.

Jim Sinner, president and CEO at Medina Memorial Healthcare System, says he likes the idea
of helping the community and area small businesses.

“We have a lot of businesses – small mom-and-pops with five to 15 people – and really, those types of
organizations cannot provide health care,” he says. “What I hope is it improves in some way the
health status of the community by providing them access to health care.”

Small-business angle.
Others say they like the ability to give small businesses a way to offer an employer contribution
without having to buy into a more expensive health insurance plan.

At Niagara Falls Memorial, the list of routine health and wellness services available at the hospital
include mammograms, routine physicals, X-rays, lab work-ups, flu vaccines and other services which
are offered at a discounted rate of 40 percent to 50 percent off regular prices charged to those who
are not part of a contracted group.

“In the City of Niagara Falls, we have large portions of uninsured and underinsured,” says Tony Zito,
COO and executive vice president. “Health insurance is one of the first things that gets dropped. If
they have the ability to pay whatever they can afford, it’s another option.”

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