Health Advantage Boots Executives

The parent company of Baptist Health's health maintenance organization engineered a major corporate shakeup last week.

HMO Partners Inc., a partnership between Baptist and USAble Corp. that runs Health Advantage, the leading HMO in the state, booted two of its top executives and witnessed the voluntary departure of a third, according to the state Insurance Department.

Bob Ridgeway, assistant commissioner and general counsel for the Insurance Department, says he was told by two top officials at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which owns USAble, that Ralph David Alexander, president and chief executive officer, and Dave Earl Williams, the chief operating officer, were removed from their positions by the company's board of directors "due to a new management philosophy." Ridgeway said he was told that Sharon Marcum, vice president of health affairs for the company, left around the same time of her own free will. Ridgeway said his sources were Blue Cross legal/government/public affairs executive Bob Cabe and Chief Financial Officer Mark White.

Cabe would not confirm the reasons for the executives' departure. Marcum declined to comment, and the other two executives could not be reached.

Cabe denied that the shakeup was a sign of major trouble at Health Advantage.

David Bridges has been named chief operating officer in charge of day-to-day operations of the company until the board can permanently replace Alexander, Cabe has said. Bridges formerly was vice president of claims administrations at USAble Life.

Cabe says the departure of the executives is not linked in any way to Baptist Health's pullout from the Prudential point-of-service plan.