CHICAGO – Health insurance companies around the country are using aggressive negotiating tactics to terminate physician contracts, forcing physicians out of network with little or no notice and increasing the likelihood that patients will receive surprise medical bills. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has implored Alex M. Azar II, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to press insurers to reinstate terminated contracts and to implement a moratorium on cancellations and terminations during this national health emergency.
“If these cancellations are allowed to continue, patients could do everything right and still be forced to pay higher out-of-pocket costs and out-of-network bills because of insurers’ inappropriate action,” said ASA President Mary Dale Peterson, M.D., MSHCA, FACHE, FASA. “We believe the entire health care community should have a singular focus on the health and well-being of patients throughout this world-wide crisis.”
During 2020, some insurers, most notably United Healthcare, have changed the terms of their plans, unilaterally terminating long-standing contracts and forcing physicians out of contract. A national survey released in February by ASA confirmed that physician anesthesiologists were being forced out of network. Initial results found 42% of respondents had contracts terminated in the last six months. Additionally, 43% of respondents experienced dramatic payment cuts from insurers, both mid-contract and at renewal, in some cases by as much as 60%. Some of the impacted contracts were signed less than six months ago. The informal, non-scientific survey received responses from 76 practice groups in 33 states.
ASA has asked Secretary Azar to use his authority as head of the HHS to convene interested parties to end this troubling practice of changing contract provisions before the contract is expired.
“Everyone has a role in the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Peterson. “We believe we are doing our part on the front lines during the pandemic. We are eager to help ensure that insurers honor their commitments to consumers and patients in need. While insurance companies continue to reap profits, those actually caring for patients are having salaries cut or are being furloughed. Insurance companies should rescind their cancellations immediately.”
THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS
Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 54,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.
For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter.
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