Have Anthem Blue Cross health insurance? If so, you along with about 25,000 other people who sought care at Firelands Regional Medical Center last year might have to pay more to go there in the future. Or you might want to seek care at another area hospital.
Hospital administrators, unhappy with “unfair payment rates”, are threatening to cancel the hospital’s contract with Anthem, one of the hospital’s biggest customers.
If it goes through, the cancellation would take effect Jan. 1.
Firelands will still treat patients covered by Anthem, but the change means that patients would likely have to pay out-of-network fees for using Firelands, said Dan Moncher, the hospital’s chief financial officer.
Moncher said that the hospital has been contacting health insurance companies and asking for payment hikes to help Firelands get through the current recession.
For the first seven months of this year, charity care for patients who can’t pay has gone up 40 percent over the like months of 2009, hospital officials say. Charity care has cost Firelands $15 million during the past two years.
Moncher said Anthem Blue Cross, which did not respond favorably to the hospital’s request, insured 1,000 of the hospital’s admitted patients in 2009, and 24,000 of the hospital’s outpatient visitors.
Termination of the provider network agreement would affect Anthem Blue Preferred, Anthem Blue Access and Anthem Blue Traditional customers. It also would affect members of the company’s Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO.
Other local hospitals such as Magruder in Port Clinton, Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk and Bellevue Hospital still have network provider agreements with Anthem. NOMS also has a long-term contract with the insurer.
Local Anthem customers include more than 1,000 workers and retirees in UAW Local 1216, which serves workers in the Automotive Components Holdings plant that Ford owns in Margaretta Township.
“It’s tough, especially for the retirees who have been using Firelands forever,” said Chris Leibacher, benefits representative for the local union.