Thousands of Nebraskans might have to find a new hospital - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Thousands of Nebraskans might have to find a new hospital

By: Megan Conway

With a deadline quickly approaching and no agreement in sight, thousands in Nebraska may soon have to find a new hospital for in–network insurance coverage. The contract between UniNet Healthcare Network and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska will expire Sunday. No more negotiations are scheduled, so now the focus is on the effects this will have on patients. 

Since April of this year, negotiations have been ongoing with little progress. Now the deadline of September 1st is around the corner. Once the contract expires, around 130,000 Nebraskans will be affected.

"Things that impact our patients on access, quality and relationship with their trusted physician, that's a very regrettable situation to put patients in," says Dr. Barry Hoover, UniNet Lincoln Medical Director.

The issue that can not be resolved is that Omaha hospitals cost 20–30 percent more than other local providers and physicians are 10 percent more expensive. BCBS says they cannot allow one provider to cost significantly more than others.

"We knew that if we didn't do something now, that if you were to look another year or two out, this situation certainly would be much, much worse," says Lee Handke, Senior Vice President of Health Network Services at BCBS.

Even though Omaha markets are the issue, this will greatly impact all of Nebraska. An example, in Nebraska City, the closest hospital in the patients' network will be 45 miles away. Cities with other hospital options for patients, may not be ready to take on the extra incoming people.

"They're still welcome to come to St. Elizabeth's and Nebraska Heart, and we'd love to continue to take care of them, but Blue Cross is putting them in the regrettable position of having to pay higher costs," says Hoover.

UniNet does have advice for people to prepare for the upcoming changes.

"Another good thing for them to do is to just reach out to their own physician and ask have they changed their relationship and will their claims still be in–network after September 1st," says Handke.

Patients with medical problems that require continual treatment, like chemotherapy or HIV, can fill out a form and submit it to BCBS to be approved to keep the in–network rates. Also, this doesn't affect people that hold Medicare supplement through Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Even though there is still a significant gap between the offers, negotiations will continue after September 1st to hopefully reach an agreement. If you have questions or concerns you can visit their website.
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