NU Online News Service, Aug. 13, 2:25 p.m. – MedUnite Inc., San Diego, a health data communications consortium, says it plans to unveil an Internet-based claims submission network later this summer.

The consortium says it has also named a 10-member physician practice advisory board to help it persuade doctors to file more claims electronically.

Seven large insurers organized MedUnite in March 2000, to compete with an independent dot-com startup, WebMD Corp., Elmwood Park, N.J., and ward off federal interference by proving that private companies and organizations can set up a widely accepted health claims system on their own.

Consumer groups and federal officials say continuing dependence on paper claims forms adds billions of dollars to U.S. health care costs each year.

“Our biggest competitor in this market is the expensive, time-consuming
paper, phone and fax system by which most physician offices still
must process transactions today,” according to Dr. Glenn Woodworth, MedUnite’s chief medical officer.

Critics say MedUnite has been slow to set up any kind of working network, but MedUnite says the network it is now setting up will handle eligibility and benefits verification, claim submission, inquiries about claim status, referral and authorizations, and patient encounter reports.

MedUnite says the new physician advisory board should help give the network more credibility with doctors.

Members of new advisory board include Dr. Nancy Wilson Ashbach, a member of the board of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Loveland, Colo., Dr. Nancy Dickey, interim dean of the medical school at the Texas A&M University System; and Donald Fisher, president of the American Medical Group Association, Alexandria, Va.

Other members include Dr. Seth Feltheimer, chief medical officer of the Columbia Presbyterian Physician Network, New York; Patrick Hampson, president of MED3000, Pittsburgh; Gloria Austin, chief executive of Brown & Toland Medical Group, San Francisco; Dr. Stephen Caron, Primary Care Associates, San Marcos, Calif.; Dr. William Jessee, president of the Medical Group Management Association, Englewood, Colo.; Dr. Lee Sacks, president of Advocate Health Partners, Oak Brook, Ill.; and Dr. Arnold DoRosario, vice president of PriMed L.L.C., Easton, Conn.

The original MedUnite backers include Aetna Inc., Hartford; Anthem Inc., Indianapolis; CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia; Health Net Inc., Woodland Hills, Calif.; Oxford Health Networks Inc., Trumbull, Conn.; PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., Santa Ana, Calif.; and WellPoint Health Networks Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif.