TULSA, Okla. — Time is running out for BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma and Saint Francis Health System to reach a network contract agreement.
The contract between Saint Francis and BCBS ended in April. The two have failed to reach a new one since then. They have until July 29 to come to an agreement. If they don't, about 59,000 Oklahoma households will be affected.
If there is no agreement, BCBS members can still go to Saint Francis, but at an out-of-network cost.
Lisa Robertson, partner and account manager at Courtside Benefits Group, said they’re advising their clients to stage a move to a new insurance carrier if a deal is not reached.
“What we don’t like about this for the customer, the client, the employer and the employee, it disrupts their coverage, disrupts their financial responsibility," Robertson said.
Robertson said it’s important to communicate with your broker or employer about what course of action works for you, whether that’s staying with Blue Cross or switching carriers to continue getting in-network benefits at Saint Francis.
For employers, she said a move to a new carrier can get expensive.
“This ill affords them to plan what that increase is going to be if they have to change carriers," Robertson said. "And in most cases, they’re going to have to increase their budget to cover the cost of making the change.”
There is still time for the two to come to an agreement.
In a statement to 2 News, Saint Francis Health System said:
As negotiations continue with BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma (BCBS), we remain committed to pursuing an agreement that helps their members maintain in-network access to their Saint Francis Health System physicians and healthcare services.
We still have two weeks before the July 29 deadline to work through the remaining issues and we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached.
If you are a BCBS member, call your member services representative to express your concerns about losing access to Saint Francis’ comprehensive network of hospitals, physicians, labs, urgent care centers and other healthcare services.
If you have BCBS through your employer, let your Human Resources department know you want to keep access to your doctors.
And lastly, if you have BCBS through the Oklahoma Healthcare Exchange and want to stay with Saint Francis, you don’t have to wait for open enrollment to switch carriers to a plan that would allow you to keep your doctor.
BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma also shared a statement saying:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) has been working with Saint Francis Health System on a new agreement for several months and we remain ready to settle the outstanding items and sign, but we’re not there yet. Our members are our top priority, and we are standing up for fair and reasonable health care costs, which is our duty as a member-owned health insurer. We must ensure reimbursement for all locations is fair and aligned with the current market.
BCBSOK is committed to working with doctors and hospital systems to find solutions that are in the best interest of our members, who are their patients. We hope to finalize an agreement with Saint Francis that will give our members health care access and options, while protecting them from increased costs. If a deal is not reached by July 29, 2021 Saint Francis hospitals, clinics and physicians will go out of network. For updates, please visit bcbsok.com/saintfrancis.
Members may call the number on the back of their ID card or use the Provider Finder tool to find in-network options.
In the meantime, Robertson said to let both sides know how this will affect you if they don’t reach an agreement in time.
“Call Saint Francis and call Blue Cross and tell them, ask them respectfully to make a decision," Robertson said.
If a deal is not reached, there are some cases that are covered by continuity of care such as treatment for a disability or a life-threatening illness. If you need emergency services, you can still go to a St Francis emergency room for in-network costs.
Blue Cross members can find in-network care here.
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