As many as 24 of the largest employers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are expected to join the group, which has dropped "central" from its name and now calls itself the Florida Health Care Coalition. Once the expansion is complete, the coalition of businesses will comprise nearly 2 million people.
Burdines-Macy's, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Broward County Public Schools have already joined the group, which includes such central Florida stalwarts as Walt Disney Co., Hughes Supply, Lockheed Martin, Darden Restaurants and Orange County Public Schools.
The group is also teaming with Employers Health Purchasing Corp. of Ohio to further increase its purchasing power. A plan being negotiated now, which should be open to employees by the beginning of 2005, will bring member companies' drug prices to a level "very, very close" to those paid by Canadians, says Becky Cherney, president and CEO of the coalition.
"Employers have been flying around like eagles, all by themselves," says Cherney. "The only way you can leverage your numbers is to work together."
The coalition, which is open to companies with more than 1,000 employees, also aims to improve the quality of healthcare by tracking the success of treatments. For example, it monitors patient response to treatment at 17 participating hospitals, helping to determine which hospitals work better and deserve more business. A similar program tracking doctor office visits aims to show which doctors are most successful in treating patients.
The group also provides employers with information that might allow them to run their benefits plans more efficiently, deal with healthcare systems issues more productively and lobby for legislative
The employers -- most self-insured -- hope that by focusing on quality, they can reduce their costs.
"Variation in care is the biggest problem in medicine," Cherney says, citing a 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that patients got correct care on only 54% of doctor visits. New drugs and new technologies make continuing doctor education an important component, but doctors must also have access to previous medical records and the outcome of earlier treatments -- two components missing in many cases, Cherney says.
"Disney wouldn't put up with a vendor who didn't supply a quality product, so why should it put up with substandard medical care?" Cherney says.
FLORIDA TRENDLINE?TRANSPORTATIONRiding the Rails
Amtrak operates over 1,098 route miles in Florida and has 28 depots around the state. Ridership at its busiest station -- in Sanford -- totaled 211,942. At No. 2 Orlando, ridership was 149,039, and at Miami, 71,842. Amtrak's ridership numbers in Sanford, Orlando and the state for the five years ended 2002:Amtrak Annual Ridership Station1998?????1999?????2000?????2001?????2002?????Sanford257,138249,926245,946226,342211,942Orlando155,130147,172156,027144,678149,039Florida921,827917,346951,064934,069826,373Source: Amtrak (May 2003)
IN THE NEWS
Heathrow -- Jarden Corp.'s plans to buy pencil maker Dixon Ticonderoga (Amex-DXT) for about $5 a share fell apart in late March, Dixon reported. Jarden, based in Rye, N.Y., makes kitchen matches and plastic cutlery, among other consumer goods.
Kennedy Space Center -- Boeing Co. has named All Points Logistics of Gainesville, Ga., its partner under NASA's mentor-protege program. The program encourages prime contractors to "adopt" small businesses to help them succeed. Boeing is the first prime contractor at Kennedy Space Center to participate in the program, and APL, primarily a shipping and distribution logistics company, is Boeing's first protege.
Kissimmee -- Tupperware Corp. (NYSE-TUP) opened a "test" call center in the Philippines. The company says the move enables it to limit its vulnerability should something happen to its Orlando call center and allows it to more conveniently staff phones 24 hours a day. The company already has some manufacturing and sales operations in the Philippines.
Lake Mary -- Priority Healthcare (Nasdaq-PHCC), a distributor of specialty drugs for people with chronic diseases, may more than double its workforce in the next five years as part of a $3-million expansion. The company plans to add 450 employees, mostly pharmacists, nurses and patient-care coordinators.
Melbourne -- Harris Corp. (NYSE-HRS) bought ImageLinks Inc. for an undisclosed amount. ImageLinks is an aerial and satellite imagery company originally spun off from Harris in 1996. Harris had retained partial ownership before buying the rest of the company, which had about $6 million in revenue in 2003.
Orlando -- National Leisure Group of Woburn, Mass., laid off 104 workers at its Cruises Only travel agency. The layoffs include 53 in sales in Orlando, 18 in sales in other Florida cities and 33 administrative positions. National Leisure Group, which bought Cruises Only last year, says the positions were redundant.
Construction on I-4 through Orlando has ended after 2 1/4 years. Planners anticipate only minor work except for an interchange at John Young Parkway, already in progress, and the rebuilding of the interchange between the East-West Expressway and I-4 near downtown, which will begin next June and take several years to complete.
Ripley Entertainment plans to build a $200-million hotel, water park and aquarium in Ontario, Canada, near Niagara Falls. The hotel and indoor water park resort, dubbed the Great Wolf Lodge, will be the first phase, with completion expected in 2005. The aquarium will follow in 2006.
Barnie's Coffee & Tea Co. has signed a master franchise agreement to open retail locations throughout China. The agreement calls for Barnie's stores to open in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong over the next two years.
Another condominium development is planned for downtown: The Vue at Lake Eola will be a 323-unit, 35-story tower just north of the former Four Points Sheraton that is being converted into The Metropolitan at Lake Eola condominiums. The developers, Churchill Development Group of Orlando and Westminster Partners of Chicago, say the project will include 6,000 square feet of retail space and a 3,000-sq.-ft. health club. The lowest-priced units are expected to be under $200,000.
Osceola County -- Walt Disney World has launched the first expansion of its 7-year-old Wide World of Sports complex. The new 20-acre section will include four baseball fields with outfields that can be configured for soccer, football or other field sports. Completion is expected in August.
Port Orange -- Meypack Packaging Systems USA has opened a production facility building automated packaging machinery for food-processing companies. The company, backed by a German equipment manufacturer, was started by Gary Hunt and Peter Welch, both of whom used to work for Kisters Kayat in Edgewater.
Titusville -- Bombardier Motor Corp. of America, an affiliate of Bombardier Recreational Products, will build a distribution facility for its new line of light aircraft engines at Space Coast Regional Airport, creating about 25 jobs.
The Villages -- The retirement community that sprawls across parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties was the nation's top-selling master-planned community last year, according to a survey by Robert Charles Lesser & Co., a Bethesda. Md., real estate advisory company. The Villages sold 3,823 units in 2003, easily beating a Las Vegas community that had 2,873. The No. 3 property, Poinciana in Osceola and Polk counties, sold 2,484.
PALM BAY -- Groundbreaking is scheduled to begin next month on the 206,000-sq.-ft., faux village-style Wal-Mart supercenter. The "Florida Vernacular" design, which the city requires in its commercial districts, will be the first of its kind for Wal-Mart. The Malabar Road store is set to open late this year or early 2005.