BCBSAZ tries to quell fears over contract impasse with Dignity Health YRMC
Negotiations for new contract extended through Tuesday, Feb. 7
Progress on a new contract between Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona has yet to lead to an agreement that will maintain in-network coverage for some of the insurance carrier’s members.
As it turns out, however, the implication of impact feared by local residents with various forms of Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona coverage appears to have been overstated.
“This negotiation only impacts a small percent of Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona members,” said Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona spokesperson Amanda Siedler in a news release. Only about 20% of the 12,000 people covered in Yavapai County will be affected, she said.
“Most members are not impacted by this negotiation and will be able to continue to access YRMC, even if we are unable to reach an agreement on this contract.”
An announcement was released by Dignity Health YRMC late Monday evening stating that they and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona have extended their negotiation deadline another 24 hours as the organizations work toward reaching a fair and responsible agreement.
The negotiation period has been extended through Tuesday, Feb. 7. BCBSAZ-insured patients will maintain their in-network access to YRMC services through the extension date.
"As we have stated throughout, we do not underestimate our responsibility as the region’s high-quality health care provider," Dignity Health YRMC stated in Monday's announcement. "We recognize and do not take lightly the inconvenience this negotiation has caused for our patients with coverage from BCBSAZ.
The early announcement last week about an impasse on the contract, and possible loss of in-network coverage to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona customers left the impression that losing this contract would have widespread impact on Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center patients. Many state employees, and agencies that do business with the state, as well as area colleges and universities, were left fearing that without a new contract with the hospital they would be left with no coverage at all.
The latest news from Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona specifies exactly what plans will be impacted if the existing contract is canceled.
On Monday, Siedler said in a news release that these are the network plans that will no longer be accepted at YRMC facilities or their medical groups: those with PPO or EPO plans using the Statewide/National PPO Network; HMO plans using the Statewide HMO Network; Medicare Supplement plans using the Senior Preferred Medical Supplement Network and plans using the BCBSAZ Workers Compensation Network. These customers would now be considered out-of-network, and if out-of-network insurance is allowed by a practitioner, those costs to a patient are then higher than their standard coverage.
Some Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona customers who contacted the Daily Courier over the past week voiced confusion as their insurance brokers assured them that their policies would not impacted. Official inquiries to both Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona and Dignity Health YRMC communications’ departments, however, did not clarify exactly the plans, or numbers of patients, who would be impacted by this contract. On Friday, Siedler forwarded a listing of those excluded that appeared larger than those impacted.
Letters mailed to an unknown number of customers — and hundreds of comments on social media sites — fueled fear such that national, state and local lawmakers implored leadership of both Dignity Health YRMC and the insurance carrier to find a settlement that would not leave “thousands” without insurance. Public announcements from both agencies cited that foiled negotiations were rooted in reimbursements for medical services. Neither agency indicated that these particular negotiations will have a narrow impact on actual patients.
From the start, both Dignity Health YRMC and Blue Cross Blue Shield news releases have affirmed no one would lose in-network emergency care coverage and patients already undergoing treatment or scheduled for procedures would continue with their in-network co-payments. On Monday, Siedler further confirmed that YRMC’s primary care physicians at its community clinics will remain in-network.
“As we continue to work on an agreement with Yavapai Regional Medical Center, our priority and focus is on our members and doing whatever is necessary to get them the care they need,” Siedler wrote in the release.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona now has a website azbluefacts.com/Yavapai, where members can visit for updates and obtain answers to their coverage questions. They, too, can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Nanci Hutson at email@example.com or call 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.
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