MCG Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield standoff hinges on $400

News 12 First at Five / Friday, July 27, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There is a chance you are one of the thousands of patients who have received a letter telling you Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center plans to terminate its contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"We're here in a building right now with this interview where literally people are fighting for their life," said Chief Medical Officer Bill Kanto. "Physicians want to continue to support them in that, and we're being thwarted by 'The Blues.'"

"You have the blues?" we asked.

"We have the blues," Kanto said.

So do patients like A.H. who told News 12 in a letter of his own that he fears to speculate what will happen to him. He says GHS is the closest facility that is best to handle his specialized situation.

"What do you say to those folks who say the patients are caught in the middle of this thing and you all don't seem to care?" we asked Kanto.

"I don't think that is fair at all," Kanto said. "We care very much about our patients. I think any patient who has a relationship with our physician here will tell you that our physicians care for them. We care for them as an institution. We've said we're not going to abandon them."

The letter encourages patients to contact Blue Cross directly.

"But the sorry thing is that they have both taken the position of let's scare the hell out of all the patients," said former Mayor Bob Young who first sounded the alarm about a standoff that has been nine years in the making.

"We felt that after nine years we deserved to have an increase in physician reimbursement," Kanto said.

It all boils down to money.

"Our expenses have gone up, and we need to be able to offset those expenses," Kanto said. "If we can't do that, we can't continue to practice."

The physicians want $400 more per doctor per year. Kanto says there are about 400 doctors. The two sides have less than 10 days to strike a deal.

"All they have to do is come to the table with a reasonable approach," Kanto said.

They have been negotiating for nine months. This all accounts for about 10 percent of the hospital's business. The contract will be terminated Aug. 15 if they can't reach a deal.


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