HEALTH CARE : PacifiCare to Set Up HMO in Oklahoma to Serve 12-County Area

Compiled by James M. Gomez Times staff writer

Horace Greeley once admonished would-be entrepreneurs to "Go West, young man!"

In a reverse of that old advice, PacifiCare Health Systems is heading East--to Oklahoma.

With all the hubbub about health-care reform, the Cypress-based health maintenance organization announced that it is establishing a new HMO in a 12-county rural section of southwestern Oklahoma.

The company hopes to gain a substantial number of patients among the 300,000 people who live in the 12-square-mile area.

The newly established network includes 10 hospitals and about 150 physicians and will provide coverage for employees and Medicare recipients, the company said. The contract makes it the largest HMO in that state.

PacifiCare Executive Vice President Rich Lipeles said the contract is innovative, in part because it will link the hospitals and doctors through a large telecommunications network that would be cost-effective and speed up the delivery of care.

"The managed-care network that we have embodies . . . the principles of health-care reform," Lipeles said.

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