Empire Pleads With New York Officials To Enact Conversion Legislation

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Empire HealthChoice Inc., the parent company of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, is pleading with New York officials to enact the legislation it needs to convert to for-profit status.

The New York managed care company published a full-page advertisement in The New York Times asking leaders of the state legislature and Gov. George Pataki to resolve their differences over the legislation quickly.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer says Empire is a nonprofit company that holds its assets in trust for the residents of the state.

Empire has already promised to compensate the public by contributing $1 billion–the estimated value of the company–to one health care foundation that would help the uninsured and underinsured, and a second that would support hospitals.

But Spitzer says state law prohibits any conversion. He has threatened to fight the conversion in court unless the legislature changes the law.

Pataki and the Republican leaders of the state are supporting the conversion legislation. Democrats in the Assembly are blocking it, in part because they object to the idea of using half of the Empire conversion contribution for hospitals, rather than using all of the money to help the poor.

Failing to enact conversion legislation this year could lead to a delay of two years, or even longer if the issue gets caught up in election-year politics, Empire says in the Times ad, which is written as an open letter to Pataki and the top legislative leaders.

“Empire has had 10 public hearings on this issue,” Empire writes. “The only significant reason we can see for a delay at this point is an inability to agree on how to divide the foundations income. This is not an issue Empire can resolve, only you can resolve it. If you cannot agree on how to divide the $1 billion in foundation proceeds, then let the legislation pass, create one or more foundations, and let the foundation boards make the decision.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 3, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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