Grady, Blue Cross at impasse as contract expires
By Andy Miller
Georgia Health News, November 24, 2014
Contract standoffs between hospital systems and health insurers typically have a way of being resolved — often right before a deadline.
But high-stakes negotiations between Grady Health System and Georgia’s biggest insurer failed to produce a new contract before the midnight deadline Sunday.
That means Grady Memorial Hospital is now “out of network” for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia members. Patients with Blue Cross insurance will face higher out-of-pocket costs at the Atlanta hospital and its clinics.
Lindsay Caulfield, senior vice president of public affairs at Grady, said in a statement Monday that Blue Cross “pays our health system up to 70 percent less than it pays other Georgia hospitals. By paying us unfairly low rates, Blue Cross Blue Shield has long put Grady at a disadvantage and threatens our long-term sustainability.”
Grady proposed several compromise plans, Caulfield said, “but Blue Cross continually refused to move in their position in any meaningful way.”
The lack of an agreement will affect Blue Cross in trauma services, where Grady has a strong profile, Smith said. But he added that he believes the two sides will eventually reach a new deal. “It’s going to be very difficult for any hospital not to have the largest payer in the state,’’ he said.
By Don McCanne, MD
We’ve heard similar stories many times before. The largest insurer in Georgia, WellPoint’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, has been unable or unwilling to negotiate a contract renewal with Grady Memorial Hospital, the home of one of the most prominent trauma centers in the nation.
Although Grady will continue to provide emergency services, it is the patients who will be exposed to excessive costs, only because we have a system in which we insist that private, for-profit, autonomous corporations be allowed to take charge of our health care dollars.
The solution is obvious – fire WellPoint and the other private insurers and replace them with our own single payer national health program – an improved Medicare that covers everyone.