MEDPARTNERS: State Blocks Blues Pull Out
Underscoring "the difficulty regulators might have in keeping the fragile" MedPartners Provider Network Inc. in operation, Blue Cross of California Friday reassigned 90,000 members of MedPartners-affiliated medical groups to new doctors. The state immediately issued a cease-and-desist order to the insurer (Crabtree, Orange County Register, 3/20). A Department of Corporations spokesperson said the order tells Blue Cross "to reverse everything they've done because it's against the law" (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 3/22). "California's principal concern is that health care benefits be delivered to all enrollees without disruption and consistent with continuity of care," said William Kenefick, acting commissioner of the DOC (DOC release, 3/22). But Blue Cross says it is not subject to the restrictions of MedPartners' state takeover because it contracts directly with the medical groups rather than with MedPartners (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/20).
The Journal reports that it is unknown whether Blue Cross' "action would spur other health plans to back away from the MedPartners network," but notes that the action is "the first clear evidence that the MedPartners crisis is starting to affect" HMO enrollees in California. The enrollees impacted are those in Blue Cross' California Care plan -- about 10% of MedPartner's network (3/22). The Los Angeles Times also reports that "several vendors that provide medical equipment and services have stopped doing business with" MedPartners affiliates. This refusal to do business with MedPartners is harming patient care, according to MedPartners spokesperson Robert Mead, who blamed the problem on the state's takeover (3/20). While many providers in the state are still smarting from the bankruptcy of another PPM, FPA Medical Management Inc., the "potential for harm here is even greater, since MedPartners is so much larger than FPA," the Orange County Register reports (Sforza, 3/20). The Journal reports that Blue Cross and state officials will meet today to "discuss the cease-and-desist order" (3/22).