BlueCross customers may lose care at Memorial - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

BlueCross customers may lose care at Memorial

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Anyone who's covered by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, may soon lose their care at Memorial Hospital.

That's unless they want to dig a whole lot deeper in their pockets.

Channel 3 obtained a copy of a letter BlueCross BlueShield is sending to its customers.

The insurance giant's contract with Memorial Health Care System ends on July 31. Unless they come to a last minute agreement, you could lose your care and there appears to be a stand-off.

The letter is a big upset to BlueCross BlueShield customer Chris Columber. His wife had thyroid surgery at Memorial Health Care System last year and requires frequent checkups for her condition.

"With the cost of health care what it is now and we hit our maximum out of pocket last year, which was $3,000 under our plan, it hurts," Chris Columber says.

The letter explains that starting August 1, Memorial would be an "out of network provider." That means the Columbers will have to pay a higher rate to continue treatment there.

"It's more money we're going to have to spend, but we really don't have a choice cause she can't switch health care providers now. She's too far along in her care," Columber says.

BlueCross customer Stephen McDonald says there's no way he can pay more for his heart treatment at Memorial.

"That's just kind of destroying me, but I guess you have to do what you have to do and I'll just go somewhere else. I just hate that it's like that," Stephen McDonald says.

Officials from both sides were unavailable for an interview because of the holiday, but released statements.

BlueCross says it has nothing to do with Memorial's quality of care, it just comes down to dollars and cents. They say, "Memorial has asked for a double-digit increase -- one that's more than four times the rate of inflation."

Memorial officials argue, "We have asked BlueCross for a onetime adjustment that brings Memorial closer to, although still below, market parity. Beyond that, we've only asked for rate adjustments that keep pace with medical inflation -- nothing more."

"I don't agree with it, but I understand both sides," Columber says.

"It's kind of hurting a lot of people not just me, when you can't go to a hospital you're used to going to for over 20 some years," McDonald says.

Again, the contract expires July 31. Both say they'll try to reach an agreement, but Memorial says negotiations don't seem to be getting any closer.

They want patients to understand that in case of an emergency, you should go to the nearest emergency room and any hospital, including Memorial, will still be covered by BlueCross in a true emergency.

Channel 3 wanted to ask Memorial and Blue Cross, if new federal health care standards contribute in any way to the dispute. Again, neither side was available for comment because of the holiday.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this developing story.

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