Thousands of Nebraskans may soon have to switch hospitals - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Thousands of Nebraskans may soon have to switch hospitals

By: Bill Schammert

In less than two weeks, tens of thousands of Nebraskans may have to switch hospitals. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska has been in ongoing contract talks with Catholic Health Initiatives and its negotiator, UniNet. If the two can't come to an agreement by August 31st, all Nebraska CHI hospitals will be out-of-network.

In Lincoln, that includes St. Elizabeth's Regional Medical Center and the Nebraska Heart Hospital.

"They haven't addressed our fundamental concern, which is the high cost of health care in Omaha versus other facilities," Lee Handke, Senior Vice President of Health Network Services, said. Handke says the two have been in talks for months, but can't come to an agreement on the rates for Alegent-Creighton Health in Omaha. 

At a town hall meeting in Lincoln on Monday Night, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska says it's fine with the rates for the Lincoln facilities and would consider a new contract excluding Alegent-Creighton. But, Dr. Barry Hoover with UniNet says it has to be an all or nothing deal.

"We're an integrated network," Dr. Hoover said. "We like to function as a whole all across the state as far as our physicians and facilities go."

The insurance giant says about 110,000 of its customers went to a CHI facility in Nebraska in the last 18 months. However, both sides wanted to re-iterate, even if the contract is terminated, physicians in Lincoln will still be in-network. The contract negotiation only affects hospitals.

Again, that contract deadline is August 31st. If no agreement is reached, all Nebraska CHI facilities will be out-of-network expenses for Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers. 

Here are links for both sides:

Catholic Health Initiatives and UniNet

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska

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