Health insurer UnitedHealth Group will purchase $10 million in bonds to assist critical access hospitals in California to enhance their information technology capabilities.

The Minneapolis-based payer first will provide a $200,000 grant to the California State Rural Health Association to assess the I.T. needs at the state's 31 critical access hospitals. These are facilities with a maximum of 25 beds and located in a rural area at least 35 miles from another hospital, or 15 miles from another hospital in mountainous terrain or areas with only secondary roads.

Once the association's I.T. assessments are complete, the insurer and association will select an undetermined number of critical access hospitals that will receive assistance. The selected hospitals will pool together for a $10 million bond offering, which UnitedHealth will purchase. The hospitals will repay the bonds at rates they could not get on their own. Further, United Health will pay the entire bond issuance costs of about $800,000.

UnitedHealth is making the funds available from its California Health Care Investment Program, a 20-year, $200 million commitment to help health care organizations providing services to low-income, underinsured and underserved populations.

--Joseph Goedert


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