Only in Marin
Heal Thyself or at the Very Least Rebrand / by Bill Meagher / October, 2019

It is all about the brand these days, just ask that guy living in the White House. And the lesson is not lost on Marin General Hospital, which has become MarinHealth Medical Center.

Besides trying to make local spellchecks crazy, the new handle draws Prima Medical Foundation, Marin Healthcare District Centers and Marin General Hospital Foundation under one umbrella, with everybody receiving shiny new names. Prima and the Healthcare District are together as MarinHealth Medical Network and the foundation’s new hook is MarinHealth Foundation.

Over and above generating business for local print shops in new business cards, the brand is focused on containing overhead costs by consolidating collections, staffing and billing.  

Anybody who has had a hangnail in the last 20 years can attest to the wisdom of containing any costs, overhead or otherwise, when it comes to health care.

The competition for local health-care dollars has become so strenuous that one expects surgeons to be squaring off in medical imaging parking lots, scalpels in hand. Marin General competes, of course, with Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health in its backyard. But more and more medical care has become a regional business with high-profile operations such as Stanford Healthcare and UCSF Medical Center looking to attract patients from all over the Bay Area and far beyond.

Marin General has fought hard to remain competitive and even tapped into its Marin roots in its “My Healing Place” marketing campaign. It featured locals describing their experiences of getting better with the aid of the talented med staff in Greenbrae, with just a faint nod to Marin’s reputation as a place open to all things mystic and organic.

The rebranding comes a little less than a year ahead of the newly built section of the hospital opening.

The land of the large loss
Staying with the whole medicine thing here for a few more paragraphs, let’s chat about a couple other local companies dedicated to helping people feel better, BioMarin and Ultragenyx.

The biotech companies are somewhat related in that both are orphan drug companies, that is, they are focused on creating medications for diseases and conditions more rare than common. The orphan designation comes from the Food and Drug Administration, which assigns it to medications in the hopes that companies will spend time and cash looking to aid small patient populations and receive protection from competitors and generics over a longer period of time as a reward for those efforts.

There are other similarities as well. Ultragenyx was founded by former BioMarin execs and both companies are public, so they have to be practical enough to keep at least a slight eye on their stocks. They even reported their latest financials on the same day for the quarter ending June 30.

And they have one more thing in common, red ink. For the quarter ending June 30, BioMarin reported a net loss of $37.4 million on revenues of almost $388 million. The company spent $185.6 million on research and development up against $160.7 million in general expenses.

For Ultragenyx the numbers are tougher. While the company had revenues of $24 million, the net loss was a staggering $99 million. The company’s R&D number was almost as large at $96 million, but its overhead is lower at about $40 million.

A million here and a million there, pretty soon it’s real money.

Your Marin moment
Costco, that place where you can get a barrel of mayo for $4, or a cut-rate casket (, would like to open a location in San Rafael, in the Northgate Mall where Sears died.

The owners of the mall, Merlone Geir Partners, would love to have the Kirkland, Washington-based big box retailer join its lineup, which has struggling retailers Macy’s and Kohl’s as anchors. Costco has applied for a pre-application and conceptual design review with the City of San Rafael. It would like to demolish the old building and construct a 148,000-square foot facility to include the store, a tire center and a gas station.

If approved, it would be the second Costco in Marin, joining the one at Vintage Oaks in Novato.
Most places would kill for a Costco, not so in the Mission City. Locals see traffic tie-ups, congestion and the vanishing of any hope for work-force housing getting built on the property.

Design review and planning commission meetings will likely happen this month. It will be a good test of the depth of San Rafael’s collective soul, both for its residents and city hall. It squares off possible affordable housing against volume retail and the sales tax revenue it brings. Marin needs the housing, but money doesn’t whisper.