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KPS has plan to repay half of what it owes to creditors

Kitsap Physicians Services Health Plans is attempting to clear up its financial picture, asking its creditors to submit notice of the money owed. The bills — in the form of surplus notes — should be submitted between Oct. 31 and June 15, 2006. KPS will then pay half of the due amount and set up a payment structure schedule for the balance.

The move indicates a bright future for the company, according to KPS president and CEO Elizabeth Gilje.

“We have entered into a new mode,” said Gilje. “We’re all focused on customer service, how we can answer the phone more quickly and meet client’s needs. Everyone is staying a bit more focused on this goal.”

Gilje on Friday addressed the Kitsap Community Forum meeting, which is sponsored by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce.

Group Health purchased KPS last month for $19 million. While the two companies now have the same ownership, they will run on parallel tracks. Gilje said Group Health attempted to acquire two companies in the past but the actions were dissolved when Group Health made a move to combine operations with its acquisitions.

While KPS attempts to “stay out of our patients’ lives,” it is also striving to stimulate the local economy by steering its clients to local providers. For example, referrals to physicians and services in King and Pierce Counties would no longer be provided as long as the specialty or service was available in King, Jefferson, Clallam or Mason County,

Gilje said the company’s belt tightening has caused a cultural shift.

“It’s a little more fun working there now,” she said. “It’s more relaxed. We’ve become advisors instead of traditional supervisors. And instead of taking over staff meetings on a unilateral basis, KPS meeting agendas are guided by the staff.

“I speak at the end of the meetings,” she said, “and by that time people really want to hear from me.”

Gilje said several local clients opted out of KPS because of its financial travails. While she called this “disconcerting,” she said the errant accounts would return as soon as the improvements became apparent.

“We will be a statewide company headquartered in Bremerton bringing money into Kitsap County,” Gilje said. “We’ll bring in funds from all over the state. When we show how well we serve our customers, then the school districts will come back.”

That the company is no longer struggling for funds won’t change its outlook.

“We’re in the insurance business,” Gilje said. “We don’t take risks.”

For information about the surplus note program, call Jan Blackburn, (360) 478-2607.

The next Kitsap Community Forum takes place from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on October 28 at the Baja Outpost in Port Orchard. Superior Court Judge Jay Roof is the featured speaker.

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