Error on Anthem ID cards results in claim denials

California Medical Association
CMA Alert, June 30,2014

In late March, the California Medical Association (CMA) began receiving complaints from physicians in San Diego, Orange and Bay Area counties about denials from Anthem Blue Cross. Practices reported that patients presented to their offices with Anthem ID cards that indicated they had a Covered California/mirror PPO product and subsequent eligibility verification also indicated the patient had a PPO product.

However, Anthem later denied the claims stating the services were not covered under the patients’ benefit plans because they received services from out-of-network providers.

CMA escalated the issue to Anthem and learned that while the Anthem ID card and eligibility verification indicated these patients had purchased PPO products, it was a mistake. These patients had actually purchased EPO products, with no out-of-network benefits.

While Anthem is offering a PPO product for their Covered California/mirror patients in most counties, they are only offering an EPO product in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. The Anthem EPO product does not provide any benefits if patients receive services from out-of-network physicians/facilities.

At CMA’s urging, Anthem corrected the affected patient ID cards and reissued new cards to EPO patients in May. Anthem also confirmed they have updated the information that displays when physicians verify eligibility to accurately reflect the correct product type.

CMA requested that Anthem automatically reprocess affected claims at the PPO rates, the product the ID card and eligibility information reflected, but Anthem was unwilling to do so. Instead they are requiring patients to appeal each individual claim to Anthem.

Anthem Blue Cross made a mistake in that they provided ID cards and eligibility verification for their EPO (exclusive provider) patients that indicated they were PPO (preferred provider) patients. PPO patients can obtain some care out-of-network but with reduced benefits. EPO patients are not eligible for any benefits out-of-network.

The California Medical Association has requested that Anthem Blue Cross reprocess those claims based on the PPO status that they had verified. Anthem has refused to do so, insisting that each claim be appealed individually. For an industry noted for administrative excesses and placing an administrative burden on health care providers, they are carrying it to an extreme wherein they are requiring much more administrative excesses to rectify their own error – punishing patients and providers for their own mistake.

How can this industry be so crass? Yet this industry, which should be placing patient service above all else, places its own business interests first. Such an insensitive response would never take place if our health care financing system were to be managed by our own public administrators. EPOs wouldn’t even exist. It’s time to replace the private insurers with a publicly-administered single payer system.