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Governor comes to aid of state workers hit by insurance standoff

Piedmont

By Andy Miller, Editor and CEO Georgia Health News ~~

Gov. Nathan Deal, continuing his public pressure on Piedmont and Blue Cross in their contract stalemate, said Tuesday that the state and University System of Georgia will absorb out-of-network costs for employees for up to 30 days to reduce their potential financial burden.
The extraordinary step comes in the wake of Sunday’s lapse of a contract between Piedmont Health-care and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia.
Since the beginning of this week, Piedmont hospitals and doctors are out of network for Blue Cross members.
Deal urged the two parties to get back to the bargaining table, citing the effect on hundreds of thousands of state employees, retirees and their families.
“My administration will not sit idly by during this contract dispute and leave our state and university system employees, teachers and their families in the balance,” said Deal in a statement. “My top priority Gov. Nathan Deal, continuing his public pressure on Piedmont and Blue Cross in their contract stalemate, said Tuesday that the state and University System of Georgia will absorb out-of-network costs for employees for up to 30 days to reduce their potential financial burden.
The extraordinary step comes in the wake of Sunday’s lapse of a contract between Piedmont Health-care and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia.
Since the beginning of this week, Piedmont hospitals and doctors are out of network for Blue Cross members.
Deal urged the two parties to get back to the bargaining table, citing the effect on hundreds of thousands of state employees, retirees and their families.
“My administration will not sit idly by during this contract dispute and leave our state and university system employees, teachers and their families in the balance,” said Deal in a statement. “My top priority is to provide coverage for our employees.”
We will continue to explore all options to ensure employees and their families have continued access to the health care they have been relying on through the University System of Georgia health
care plans,’’ Wrigley added.
Chris Kane, a consultant with Progressive Healthcare, told GHN on Tuesday that the governor’s intervention Tuesday “suggests that the parties are far apart and need the 30 days to reach  resolution.’’
“Among state employees, Governor Deal is effectively the CEO, and the decision to pay for the incremental out-of-pocket [costs] sends a positive message for the state’s covered lives,’’ Kane said.
“For both Blue Cross and Piedmont, protracted negotiations will risk the loss of goodwill among customers,’’ he added.
Piedmont executive Matt Gove said Tuesday that while talks have continued since Sunday, “no meaningful progress’’ has been made toward a new contract. “Piedmont has never left the table,’’ Gove said. He said negotiations had progressed until almost the midnight Saturday deadline, but then “Blue Cross turned away from that progress and reverted to a 5-day-old proposal that was
unacceptable.” That move demonstrated that Blue Cross was not interesting in finding a solution, Gove added.
“We at Piedmont agree with Governor Deal that the well-being of our patients who happen to be Blue Cross members is the most important thing,” he said.
Blue Cross responded with a statement Tuesday night on the standoff: “For Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, protecting consumers’ access to affordable health care continues to be our top priority during these negotiations. Unfortunately, we have been unable to come to an agreement with Piedmont that accomplishes that goal despite our offers that include meaningful increases in compensation.
We do believe hospitals and doctors should be compensated fairly, but not at the expense of Georgia’s families, businesses and taxpayers.
“We understand the concerns raised by the governor, our consumers, and many of our own associates who receive care through Piedmont,’’ the Blue Cross statement continued. “We are confident
common ground can be found as we are actively negotiating in good faith toward an agreement that would bring Piedmont’s hospitals and physicians back into our network.”
The insurer emphasized that member services staff are standing by to assist consumers and help limit any disruptions. Blue Cross urged consumers with questions to call the toll-free member services number on their ID card, or access bcbsga.com to view a list of providers in their area.
The company added that emergency care is always a covered benefit — anyone with a medical emergency should always call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

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