By Max Hrenda
In early April, more than 26,000 BlueCross BlueShield customers in Tennessee received notification that, on July 1, their insurance would no longer be accepted at any facility operated by Mountain States Health Alliance.
The cancellation of services could prove especially trying for BCBS customers living in Carter and Johnson counties. Each county only has one hospital — Sycamore Shoals and Johnson County Community hospitals — and both are in the MSHA network.
Though both MSHA and BCBS are still negotiating the terms for a new contract, if no agreement is reached, that would mean that the nearly 3,000 BCBS customers in Carter County and almost 1,000 customers in Johnson County would need to either pay out-of-network prices for a hospital visit or travel to another hospital network entirely.
But representatives from both MSHA and BCBS say that they are optimistic that a deal can be reached before the June 30 deadline.
“We have probably a 60-year relationship with BlueCross of providing services for their members,” said Tony Benton, vice president of marketing and communications for MSHA. “We really want that to continue, and, I think, at the end of the day, they want that, as well.”
“Both entities are working in good faith to try to find a resolution to our differences,” said Mary Danielson, director of corporate communications for BCBS. “We do understand the concern that a possible network disruption like this has on our members and MSHA’s patients. We’re doing what we can to avoid any inconveniences for the residents of Northeast Tennessee.”
Despite these assurances from both parties, some BCBS customers may remember the result of contract negotiations between MSHA and Cigna, one of the region’s other top insurance providers. Negotiations between MSHA and Cigna reached an impasse in 2011, and on Jan. 1, 2012, MSHA was removed from Cigna’s network.