Butte County Blue Cross HMO Members May Have To Switch Plans After Closure of Physician Group
As many as 4,000 Blue Cross of California HMO members in Butte County could lose access to their health care providers as a result of the scheduled closure of Chico-based Sierra Valley Medical Group, a local physician group that contracted with the HMO, on Feb. 1, the Chico Enterprise-Record reports. Charlie Tveit, CEO of Sierra Valley, said that the physician group plans to close because of a decrease in HMO business in the area; Health Net and PacifiCare no longer offer their HMO plans in the area, leaving Blue Cross as the only HMO available. Lisa Mee-Stephenson, a spokesperson for Blue Cross, said that the company often "rolls over" contracts to other physician groups in cases where groups with which the company contracts decide to close. However, the area has no other physician groups similar to Sierra Valley. Blue Cross will contract with individual physicians from the company's preferred provider organization to provide care for HMO members in the short term, but for the long term, "no decision has been made," Mee-Stephenson said. She added that Blue Cross HMO members "shouldn't worry that the health plan will suddenly vanish" from the area, the Enterprise-Record reports. Blue Cross must have approval from the Department of Managed Health Care before the company can withdraw the HMO from the area, she said. A decision by Blue Cross to withdraw the HMO plan would force many area members to pay about 40% more for coverage under the company's PPO plan or to switch to different health insurer, the Enterprise-Record reports (Mitchell, Chico Enterprise-Record, 1/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.