SACRAMENTO: Mercy, Blue Cross Agree to Contract Extension
Officials at MedClinic Medical Group, Woodland Clinic Medical Group and Mercy Healthcare Sacramento, the city's largest hospital system, agreed yesterday to extend their current contracts with Blue Cross of California for one month, holding off a plan to stop serving the insurer's members as of midnight tonight, the Sacramento Bee reports. In what has become an increasing trend in contract negotiations, Mercy and the two medical groups had threatened to stop treating Sacramento-area Blue Cross patients unless the plan agreed to boost reimbursement rates and eliminate cumbersome billing practices. If the groups are unable to resolve their differences by Aug. 15, nearly 10,000 area Blue Cross patients will be forced to find new physicians, according to Blue Cross spokesperson Michael Chee. He added, "It's important for our members to know that their benefits are still intact until an actual termination occurs." Mercy parent Catholic Healthcare West defended the hospital chain's tactics. Noting that the not-for-profit chain was trying to protect its financial future, CHW spokesperson Lori Aldrete said, "We need to be reasonably compensated. We're trying to get fair and equitable payments for our services." The contract extension comes one month after CHW filed a lawsuit against Blue Cross, seeking $50 million in unpaid claims and demanding an end to what it claims is a "pattern of practices by Blue Cross to delay, deny, or reduce the amounts of claims it pays." The health plan said the suit is without merit. Chee added that it has no bearing on the current contract talks (Fisher, 7/14).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.