Connecticut's’s congressional delegation on Friday urged Hartford HealthCare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to resolve their contract dispute, which has dragged on nearly two weeks.
Hartford HealthCare and Anthem failed to reach agreement on a three-year contract by the Sept. 30 deadline. As a result, tens of thousands of patients are classified as out-of-network and must pay costlier out-of-pocket fees and other expenses for health care.
“We write today to express our concern for the approximately 60,000 patients and policyholders affected by the ongoing impasse between Anthem and Hartford Healthcare,” Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Reps. Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Elizabeth Esty, Jim Himes and John Larson wrote to the top executives of the insurance and health care businesses.
The “stalemate in negotiations is disruptive and a disservice” to patients and the insured, the all-Democrat delegation told Hartford Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Elliot Joseph and Jill Hummel, president and general manager of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Connecticut.
“Continued gridlock is harmful to everyone involved. We urge you to seek a prompt resolution,” the members of Congress said.
It’s the second time this week that elected officials publicly leaned on Hartford HealthCare and Anthem to end the dispute. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman expressed frustration Tuesday at the drawn out negotiations, saying the two sides should “sit in a room together and work this out.”
Spokesman Shawn Mawhiney said Hartford HealthCare is doing everything possible “to negotiate in good faith.” The system includes Hartford Hospital, Backus Hospital in Norwich, the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, MidState Medical Center in Meriden and Windham Hospital,
A spokeswoman for Anthem did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the congressional delegation’s letter.
The insurance company has previously said it asked Hartford HealthCare to accept its offer to renew the agreements or extend contracts now in force to allow more time to reach agreement without disrupting access for members and patients.
Hartford HealthCare “has not been willing to accept any of these offers,” Anthem said.
James Cardon, Hartford HealthCare’s chief clinical integration officer, said Oct. 3 that the health care system has “been able to find common ground” with other companies, but not with Anthem.
The members of Congress said patients, “especially those who are dealing with chronic or acute illnesses,” must now decide whether to pay higher out-of-network rates or find care elsewhere with another provider who may not be able to schedule a visit when needed.
“Additionally, this causes significant confusion for patients as to what services remain in-network,” the senators and representatives said.
Darren J. Walsh, principal at Power and Walsh Insurance Advisors Inc., a Fairfield insurance broker that works with small employers, criticized the Anthem and Hartford HealthCare for failing to provide public information about negotiations that he said will likely lead to higher premiums.
He also faulted doctors and hospitals for failing to provide patients with advance information on prices of treatments, procedures and other medical details that would allow more informed decision-making.
“I’d love to see cost transparency,” Walsh said. “That information does not exist. Prices are kept secret. The deal is kept secret.”
Hospitals and other health care providers should be required to publish the cost for all services they provide in an online database. Details could be spelled out for consumers with or without insurance and those who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The information, he said, is “essential for consumers with high deductible plans,” Walsh said.