Hartford HealthCare has rejected Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield’s offer of mediation to settle a contract dispute that has left tens of thousands of Connecticut residents paying more for health care.
In an email obtained by The Courant, Elliot Joseph, CEO of the hospital group, said the fundamental disagreement between the two sides is that Hartford HealthCare is being offered as much as 20 percent less than what Anthem pays hospitals in New Haven and other states.
“If Hartford HealthCare continues to accept these low payments, we will not be able to sustain the breadth of services we provide today,” Joseph wrote to Jill Hummel, head of Anthem in Connecticut, on Wednesday. “We have made this point to you again and again. Good partners listen.”
An Anthem spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.
Hummel had extended an offer via email Monday to have a nationally recognized dispute resolution organization help the two sides reach an agreement.
The previous contract between Hartford HealthCare and Anthem expired on Sept. 30. Ever since, Anthem customers have been charged higher, out-of-network rates at Hartford HealthCare facilities. Some patients have told The Courant they are delaying treatment to avoid the increase in costs.
Joseph also accused Anthem of withholding payments to Hartford HealthCare “as yet another bullying tactic.”
“We know this move is designed to create even more confusion, drain valuable capital and put pressure on our ability to care for our community,” he wrote. “Good partners would never do that.”
Joseph went on to cite Anthem’s recent third-quarter profits of $746.9 million, contrasting it with the hospital group’s not-for-profit status.
“Unlike Anthem, we are a Connecticut non-profit,” he wrote. “All our money stays in-state to help support vital services and investments. Anthem is enjoying record profits, yet instead of investing in our state to support the care its members need, or lowering people’s premiums, Anthem keeps demanding more.”
Anthem has said prices at Hartford HealthCare hospitals have increased by more than 65 percent since 2010. And if the hospital group gets the price increases it is asking for costs will jump by more than 90 percent from 2010-2020, the insurer said.
Pressure on both sides to end the dispute has mounted as the impasse continues into its seventh week. The top Democrat in the state Senate said this week he plans to reintroduce legislation that would create a binding arbitration process to solve disputes between insurers and hospitals.
A news conference is planned at the state Capitol complex Thursday with the Office of the Healthcare Advocate, which has reported an increase in patients calling in with questions and concerns about the standoff between Hartford HealthCare and Anthem.
The situation has been felt acutely in the northeast part of the state, where several major hospitals, including Windham Hospital and Backus Hospital in Norwich, are part of the Hartford HealthCare network.
“There’s folks up there that feel like they’re paying for insurance they don’t even have anymore,” said Ted Doolittle, the state’s health care advocate.
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