North Bay Business Journal

Monday, December 31, 2012, 6:45 am

Top stories of 2012: Happier times for wine

Also: New players in health care; Marin loses Grady Ranch

By Eric Gneckow, Jeff Quackenbush and Dan Verel, Business Journal Staff Reporters

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Page 4 of 5

7. Enphase Energy goes public

Petaluma-based Enphase Energy raised $54 million in the North Bay’s largest initial public offering of the year. Priced at $6 per share on Nasdaq, the shares jumped as high as $8.24 during first day of trading on March 30, a gain of 22 percent, closing at $7.30.

Enhpase had cut its share target from the $10-$12 range earlier that week in the light of weakening markets due to Chinese competition.

Still, the maker of microinverters for the solar industry sold 9 million shares, more than expected. The company has more than 360 employees worldwide.Enphase stock was trading last week at around $3 a share. Since March the stock has ranged in price between $9.57 and $1.92.

Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal

8. Western Health Advantage, other health plans enter market

The arrival of Sacramento-based HMO Western Health Advantage in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties capped off years of planning by local physicians and health care leaders as they collectively sought to build an integrated model for the region’s independent health care providers amid the shifting, reform-driven landscape.

Western Health AdvantageIt also almost immediately injected more competition into a market dominated by Kaiser Permanente, giving brokers another  option to offer employers and thus the possibility of lower costs on employer-based coverage. 

In order for that to work, however, proponents of the plan, first conceived by several independent health care districts in Sonoma County, needed to secure a major provider and an adequate network. That came in the way of St. Joseph Health-owned hospitals in Santa Rosa and Napa and the then Marin-Sonoma IPA, know called the Meritage Medical Network, whose some 800 physicians are serving as the major in-network provider for Western Health Advantage’s arrival.

Other providers include Marin General Hospital, St. Joseph Health-operated Petaluma Valley Hospital, Palm Drive Hospital, Sonoma Valley Hospital and Healdsburg District Hospital – effectively all providers besides Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente.

Providers in the North Bay specifically cited Western Health’s ability to compete with major health systems in the Sacramento-Solano region. For Western Health, the move into the North Bay gives it a contiguous foothold from Sacramento to Sausalito, where it hopes to capitalize on the smaller group market that makes up a significant portion of North Bay employers.

Several proponents have also said the arrival of Western Health will help fill a void created when the then-Santa Rosa-based Health Plan of the Redwoods went bankrupt in 2002.

Other HMO products soon followed, though not all of them were related to health care reform. Instead, both Blue Shield of California and United Healthcare rolled out “narrow” or “skinny” networks in the North Bay, responding to consumer demand with more affordable health plans.

The narrow or skinny networks typically offer fewer providers for group plans in exchange for lower premiums, rather than a larger, more traditional network that contract with more providers.

Blue Shield will work specifically with the Meritage Medical Network and Sonoma County Primary in offering its SaveNet HMO in Marin and Sonoma counties.

United Healthcare’s Signature Value Alliance network will be formed primarily upon Sutter Health-affiliated physician groups but will also include groups like Brown & Toland in Northern California.

Sutter Health, meanwhile, is currently pursuing its own HMO product in Sacramento, which will also likely inject more competition into the employer-based insurance market. It expects to roll out the product to other regions upon getting state approval.

Dan Verel

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