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Deal orders BCBS, Piedmont back to the table
Insurer, health care provider in impasse over new contract
A ribbon is used for the ceremonial opening of Piedmont Rockdale Hospital on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. - photo by David Clemons

Gov. Nathan Deal ordered Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare back to the negotiating table on Tuesday in hopes of solving an impasse that has disrupted the insurance of more than half a million people in the state.

Deal also said the state government and the University System of Georgia would absorb out-of-network claims for affected employees for up to 30 days in order to minimize patients’ financial burdens.

People across the state, especially metro Atlanta, found their health care disrupted Sunday when the contract between Blue Cross Blue Shield and Piedmont expired.

Atlanta-based Piedmont owns 11 hospitals and numerous north Georgia clinics.

“My administration will not sit idly by during this contract dispute and leave our state and university system employees, teachers and their families in the balance,” Deal said.

“My top priority is the well-being of our members. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare must return to the negotiating table, and Blue Cross Blue Shield must honor the contractual obligations made to the state.”

Deal said he’s order the state Department of Community Health and the State Health Benefit Plan “to explore all possible solutions” if an agreement isn’t reached to ensure care for members.

Piedmont Healthcare operates the only hospital in Newton County, Piedmont Newton in Covington. It also owns hospitals in Rockdale and Walton counties, but those are recent acquisitions not affected by the now-expired agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

At Piedmont Newton, all Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield commercial plans and Anthem Blue Cross Medicare Advantage plans are affected by the impasse. All Piedmont clinic physicians are out-of-network for users of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield commercial plans.

“We believed that both parties were negotiating in good faith and had planned to reach an agreement by March 31. It didn’t become clear to us that Anthem Blue Cross didn’t share that goal until the end of negotiations,” Piedmont said in a statement.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare must come to a quick resolution to this contract dispute so additional costs are not incurred by employees of the University System of Georgia and the state,” Chancellor Steve Wrigley said.

“We will continue to explore all options to ensure employees and their families have continued access to the health care they have been relying on through the University System of Georgia health care plans.”