Castleview, Regence negotiation hits impasse
Insured won't lose coverage, but costs could go up
Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah has begun sending letters to customers in Carbon County, explaining that the insurer's contract with Castleview Hospital was due to be terminated on Sept. 7.
The parties were scheduled to continue face-to-face negotiations on August 21, but had not been able to agree on rates of reimbursement up to this point. According to Lou Riepl, Strategic Communication Manager for Regence, approximately 800 letters were sent out to residents in Carbon County.
In the letter, Regence explains the changes that will take place concerning the choice of medical providers for those insured by their company should the contract lapse. It is important to note that these letters in no way mean that anyone will lose their health insurance. The letters only explain what may happen if Castleview Hospital no longer has an "in network" contract with Regence of Utah.
However, both parties said during Tuesday interviews that they were working hard to reach an agreement quickly and that it was in the best interest of both parties to do so.
"Don't panic," said Castleview Chief Financial Officer Greg Cook. "This is a very normal thing for hospitals and insurance companies to go through. Blue Cross was obligated to send that letter because of the date in which the contract is scheduled to terminate."
In the letter, it is explained to those covered locally that should they receive emergency room care without a new contract in place, they will be reimbursed directly by Regence, less the amount they owe.
"You will be responsible for making payment to the hospital for services and may be subject to payment for amounts up to the total billed charges. This difference could be substantial depending on your benefits and the scope of service your receive," the letter says.
While September 7 is 17 days away from Aug. 21, Cook stated that this is actually quite a lot of time for the two sides to reach an agreement.
Riepl also explained that should the two parties make progress in their negotiations over the next two weeks, an extension could be given while bargaining continues.
According to the letter and those at Regence, the inability of the parties to reach an agreement has revolved around rates for reimbursement of services.
For Castleview, which is owned by Lifepoint Hospitals, the rates being asked for would be "detrimental to the hospital's operation." For Regence, the two Lifepoint hospitals operating in Utah are already among the state's most expensive, so the insurer is reluctant to pay more.