Coastal Healthcare buys Owings Mills doctor group


Coastal Healthcare Group Inc., the largest owner of doctor networks in the country, has acquired a group of 37 primary care doctors and a related health services company in Maryland in a stock deal valued at nearly $30 million.

Coastal purchased the Owings Mills-based Physicians Planning Group Inc., a manager of primary care provider networks, and HealthCare Automation Inc., a small health services company that provides claims, billing and specialized software consulting services to doctors and hospitals.

The two local companies, with combined annual revenues of about $20 million, were owned until yesterday by Edward L. Perl, an Eldersburg pediatrician, and Perry Snyder, an accountant. They will become employees of Durham, N.C.-based Coastal but continue in their positions -- Dr. Perl as president of the physician group and Mr. Snyder as president of the service company.

The Physicians Planning Group provides medical care exclusively to members of health maintenance organizations owned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland -- CareFirst, Potomac Health and Free State health plans -- at seven medical centers in metropolitan Baltimore.

The two company presidents plan to use capital and expertise from Coastal, which is publicly traded, to expand the health care network and do additional work for Blue Cross, Mr. Snyder said. He added that he expects the need for primary care doctors to grow as the Blues' HMOs grow.

The Owings Mills company is one of the largest provider groups for the Blues' HMOs and serves 41,000 of the insurer's approximately 225,000 HMO members. It employs 50 people at its headquarters and 225 others, including 37 salaried physicians, at its seven centers.

"One of the things that let us decide on Coastal is that they let us be autonomous. We know all the major players and all the major players know us. We will continue to run our business," Mr. Snyder said.

Under the deal with Coastal, Mr. Snyder and Dr. Perl will receive 857,000 shares of Coastal for the stock of their companies.

Stock in Coastal closed unchanged at $34.50 a share in trading )) on the Nasdaq stock market yesterday, putting the value of the shares at $29.5 million.

Coastal Healthcare has 3,200 doctors in its networks nationwide, and 60 percent of its stock is owned by physicians.

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