More mergers in local health care, Utilities pitches rate increase, and more 


DaVita dives deeper

Partner up!

That seems to be the mantra in the local health care community. Denver-based DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc., a giant in the dialysis business, recently acquired the area's largest medical practice, Colorado Springs Health Partners.

But the company didn't stop there. DaVita is also partnering 50-50 with Englewood-based Centura Health, starting Jan. 1.

Among Centura's holdings are 15 hospitals, including Penrose-St. Francis. The partnership plans to focus on lowering costs by emphasizing preventive care and upgrading systems that track patient care, the companies said in a joint press release.

"We are excited to partner with Centura Health, and to help providers participate in the shift from volume to value-based care," Kent Thiry, co-chairman and CEO of DaVita HealthCare Partners, stated in the release.

Centura Health also recently announced that Longmont United Hospital intends to affiliate with it.

Many mergers and partnerships today are a result of the Affordable Care Act, which put new requirements on doctors and hospitals, such as keeping electronic medical records, that are easier to accomplish in larger companies and practices. — JAS

Electric-rate hike planned

Pollution-control equipment for the city's power plants, including Neumann Systems scrubbers at Drake Power Plant and other system improvements, will translate to an electric-rate increase for Colorado Springs Utilities customers starting Jan. 1 under CSU's 2015 budget, which was given final approval by City Council on Monday.

A public hearing will be held Nov. 25 on the rate case, which calls for a 5 percent increase for residential customers, or $4 per month for the typical residential customer. Commercial and industrial customers will see increases of about 2.5 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. A Council decision on the rate increase is slated for Dec. 9.

Utilities says in a budget outline that decisions were based on customers' top priorities: competitive rates, safe and reliable service and excellent customer service. Even with the proposed rate increase, about $35 million must be slashed in the next two years to keep rates competitive, which means eliminating 100 Utilities jobs and reductions in operations, maintenance and capital expenses.

Other budget highlights:

• Capital costs of $329.7 million next year are needed to meet environmental and regulatory requirements and to address aging infrastructure.

• Operations and maintenance costs will decline by $4.3 million, due largely to cutting maintenance for power plants.

• Coal, natural gas and purchased power costs will increase by $7.8 million.

• Utilities will transfer $32.5 million to the city in surplus funds, $800,000 more than this year, due to slightly higher electric and gas sales inside the city limits. — PZ

Bach talks stormwater

Mayor Steve Bach didn't support the failed ballot initiative for the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority (see "Let's nix this"). Now he'll be working to put together his own plan for stormwater and other city infrastructure. In a series of six town hall meetings, the mayor will discuss high-priority capital improvement projects for stormwater, streets, public safety and parks. He'll accept questions and comments.

The mayor hasn't been clear on exactly what his plan is, but it will be specific to the city — unlike the Authority, which was regional — and will likely come in the form of a bond issue or sales tax.

The first meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Coronado High School, 1590 W. Fillmore St. To check the other dates go to coloradosprings.gov or mayorstevebach.com. — JAS

Help for Thanksgiving

Care and Share Food Bank, Springs Rescue Mission and Catholic Charities of Central Colorado's Marian House are working together on a regional turkey drive. The nonprofits are trying to collect enough turkeys to ensure struggling families have the main entrée for their holiday meals.

Turkey-raising events will include Panera Bread's A Gobble for All Turkey Drive, Sunny 106.3 and News 5's Take a Turkey to Work Day, drop-offs at Security Service Field, and Catholic Charities' Stuff the Bird Turkey Drive.

To find out more about where to donate a turkey, or to simply give money to the cause, go to careandshare.org. — JAS

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