WellPoint Acquires Health Care Firm in Texas

WellPoint Health Networks Inc., a giant managed health care company based in Woodland Hills, said it has acquired AHI Healthcare Corp., a privately held firm based in Houston. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

AHI, a preferred provider organization, serves about 700,000 members in Texas through a network of 161 institutional providers, such as hospitals, and 6,290 physicians. AHI has also applied with the Texas Department of Insurance for permission to market a health maintenance organization plan. HMOs generally require members to choose one doctor for primary care visits, while PPOs allow members to see any doctor who belongs to their network.

AHI primarily serves small employer groups, and does not directly insure members, but charges other health insurers and third-party administrators for use of the AHI network of doctors and providers, WellPoint said.

Leonard Schaeffer, chief executive of WellPoint, said the acquisition "supports our strategy of expanding outside California." WellPoint is an 80%-owned subsidiary of Blue Cross of California.

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