CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE WEST: Prepares For Death Of Blue Cross Deal
Facing a midnight deadline, officials for Catholic HealthCare West and Blue Cross of California "were negotiating down to the wire" yesterday "in a last-ditch effort to hammer out a new" agreement over reimbursement rates. The Los Angeles Times reports that last night it "appeared likely" that "terms could not be reached" by the midnight deadline (MacGregor, 7/8). The Bakersfield Californian reports that CHW, "[a]nticipating the deals would die," started "informing patients of their new health care options." Barry Ginsbarg, spokesperson for CHW Central California, said, "We're moving forward with the expectation the contracts will expire." However, Blue Cross spokesperson Rhonda Seaton was more optimistic yesterday. "It could go either way. We're still at the negotiating table," she said (Bedell, 7/8).
Plans For Change
Under the "transition plan" agreed to by CHW and Blue Cross, effective midnight last night, Blue Cross patients who normally use a CHW hospital will have to go to another hospital that accepts Blue Cross members or face paying "higher out-of-pocket costs." The Ventura County Star reports that exceptions will be made until December 31 for Blue Cross patients "who have surgeries or ongoing treatments already approved" such as cancer treatment, home health care or pregnancies. "The transition period seems to be very accommodating. No member's care is going to be interrupted for this transition," said Seaton (Warchol, 7/7). The Los Angeles Times reports that those affected by the transition plan "are Blue Cross members who have the Prudent Buyer, California Care, Senior Care and point-of-service health plans." Blue Cross members with Medicare supplemental insurance and Medi-Cal recipients will not be affected (7/8). The Bakersfield Californian reports that "[n]either side could say exactly how many local people stand to see changes in service and coverage as a result of the contract scuffle." Ginsbarg said that 15,000 visits were made by Blue Cross members to CHW Central California facilities in FY 1997 and a majority of those visits were made by members in the plans affected by the current contract dispute (7/7). Click Blue Cross to read past California Healthline coverage of the CHW contract talks.
Singin' The Blues, Too
Mercy Healthcare is at a similar stalemate with Blue Cross over reimbursement rates, today's Sacramento Bee reports. "If no agreement is struck by today," Mercy will also cancel its contract with Blue Cross, leaving "about 8,000 Sacramento-area Blue Cross patients" to find non-emergency care at other hospitals. The Bee reports that late Tuesday it "was unclear ... whether the talks were proving fruitful." At issue is Mercy's contention that Blue Cross reimbursements are "so low that the hospital loses money" (Young, 7/8). KOVR-TV in Sacramento reported this morning that "analysts say it is in the best interest of both to resolve the dispute, since they need each others' services" (7/8).