Wyman Frustrated At Pace Of Anthem, Hartford HealthCare Talks

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman expressed frustration Tuesday at the drawn-out negotiations between Hartford HealthCare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield that have left tens of thousands of patients facing sharply higher medical costs.

“We’re asking both sides to sit in a room together and work this out,” Wyman said at a meeting of the Healthcare Cabinet, an advisory panel. “This is not good for the insurance company, the hospital and most of all it’s not good for the people of Connecticut.”

Hartford HealthCare and Anthem failed to reach agreement on a three-year contract by the Sept. 30 deadline.

As a result, tens of thousands of patients are classified as out-of-network and forced to pay costlier out-of-pocket fees and other expenses for health care.

Maryann Fennelly, 47, is one patient who is affected by the hospital-insurance dispute. The Watertown resident underwent surgery for breast cancer in September and a follow-up doctor’s appointment scheduled for Oct. 2 was canceled because she is now considered out-of-network, she said.

“I’m in limbo,” Fennelly said. “My treatment is on hold because I need to see an oncologist for further treatment.”

Negotiations continued Tuesday, but no progress was reported, a spokesman for Hartford HealthCare said.

Sarah Yeager, a spokeswoman for Anthem, said the parties “are engaged, meeting frequently and continuing to exchange proposals.”

Hartford HealthCare includes Hartford Hospital, Backus Hospital in Norwich, the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, MidState Medical Center in Meriden and Windham Hospital.

Wyman said the failure by Anthem and Hartford HealthCare to quickly end the dispute could lead to a “slew of bills” introduced next year in the legislature that would call for tighter state oversight.

Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and Senate co-chairman of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said lawmakers would have to consider whether the state “would want to be involved in what is otherwise a private contract.”

“Normally, the state doesn’t do that,” he said.

A bigger issue is the rising cost of health care insurance and what the state can do to help reverse that, Kelly said.

The University of Connecticut Health Center stepped in last week, offering to schedule doctor visits with patients affected by the impasse. While that’s helpful, Wyman said patients prefer to see their own doctors.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was more understanding of the issues facing the two sides, particularly Anthem. However, the dispute was just in its third day when he said last week that Anthem and Hartford HealthCare are engaged in a “balancing act.”

“I assume the hospital wants more money and I assume that the insurance company is representing folks like us in trying to make sure that our premiums don’t go through the roof or our costs don’t go through the roof,” he said.

“So it is very much a balancing act, but let us be clear that there’s two sides to this,” the governor said. “And I think limiting the growth in the cost of health care has got to be considered in the mix.”

Hartford HealthCare and Anthem have not discussed what is holding up a new contract. Anthem said in a statement last week that it’s “seeking a fair agreement with HHC that is truly reflective of the increasing costs of providing care, rather than one containing three consecutive years of increases that are two to three times the rate of inflation.“

In contrast, Hartford HealthCare announced Oct. 3 a new three-year agreement with Aetna, three months before it is to take effect.

In a related development, Hartford HealthCare has sued Anthem in U.S. District Court, seeking a halt to what it calls the insurer’s “unlawful refusal to pay Hartford HealthCare directly for medically necessary emergency care” provided by Hartford HealthCare.

Hartford HealthCare said Anthem was retaliating for the hospital group’s decision to reject Anthem’s offer of a new provider agreement with “unfairly low reimbursement rates.”

Yeager said Anthem will not comment on pending litigation.

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