Insurance agreement could affect thousands in county

Insurance agreement could affect thousands in county

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Some progress is being made on negotiations between Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Baptist Memorial Health Care, according to local insurance agent Mary Nita Bondurant.
She is the senior vice president of life and health for Union City Insurance Agency, the county’s largest insurance agency.
“I’m looking out for the health care needs of some 4,000 clients across the county who are covered under the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Select Network,” she told The Messenger.
The outcome of the negotiations between Baptist Memorial Health Care and Blue Cross/Blue Shield could have a major impact on many families in Obion County.
The negotiations could have a direct impact on the local hospital and Baptist Memorial Health Care’s hospital in Huntingdon, but will not directly impact doctors in the county. But, if an agreement is not reached, then local doctors would be forced to admit their patients to hospitals other than Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City. Doctors who would be affected the most would be local surgeons and those in the OB-GYN field.
Employees of the Obion County and Union City school systems are covered under the Blue Cross/Blue Shield S Network as well as county employees, and employees at such local industries as The Messenger, Williams Sausage, Titan Tire, Cox Oil Co., Southern Machinery Repair and many others, according to Mrs. Bondurant.
That may soon change if negotiations aren’t successful.
If the local hospital is no longer included in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield S Network, families would be forced to seek medical treatment from health care facilities outside Union City, such as the hospitals in Martin, Dyersburg and Fulton, or they would have to switch to another insurance plan.
Mrs. Bondurant said Blue Cross Blue Shield has decided to switch from Baptist Memorial Health Care hospitals in Shelby County to Methodist hospitals for those covered under the Blue Cross/Blue Shield S Network. That switch will take place on Jan. 1, 2013.
“Until recently, we were assured that Baptist Memorial Hospital in Union City and Huntingdon would remain in the S Network,” Mrs. Bondurant said. “Last week that changed.”
Now the two hospitals may be excluded from the S Network by Jan. 1, 2013.
“However, it’s not a done deal. That’s still being negotiated and I think it may change. But I can’t make any promises,” Mrs. Bondurant said.
She said since letters were mailed out and local residents began learning about the proposed changes, her phone “has rung off the hook.”
“I’d just like to say let’s give them a few weeks before we go into panic mode,” Mrs. Bondurant said. “I’ve been talking to people on both sides and appealing to them to do what’s right for the people of Obion County.”
She said she has a meeting scheduled for Monday with officials from Baptist Memorial Health Care, but that meeting may not be necessary if an agreement is reached over the weekend.
“I think there’s a good chance of an agreement being reached by Jan. 1,” Mrs. Bondurant said.
Baptist Memorial Health Care has a full-page advertisement appearing in today’s edition outlining its position. In the ad, Blue Cross/Blue Shield is accused of a breach of contract with Baptist Memorial Health Care.
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Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be reached by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 11.16.12

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