July 23, 2010

Gillibrand Urges Empire Bluecross Blueshield Ceo To Return To Negotiating Table With Stellaris Health Network

45,000 New Yorkers Forced to Pay Higher Health Care Costs at Four Westchester Community Hospitals

Westchester, NY – As contract negotiations between Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Stellaris Health Network of Hospitals reached a standstill, forcing tens of thousands of New Yorkers to pay higher health care costs at four major hospitals in Westchester, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) urged the Empire BlueCross BlueShield CEO today to return to the negotiating table to reach a new multi-year agreement so patients can continue to receive quality, affordable care.

Senator Gillibrand wrote, “I urge you to return to negotiations on a new multi-year agreement for reimbursement rates for the sake of the patients that need health coverage.”

Earlier this month, talks to renew an agreement between insurance company Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Stellaris Health Network stalled, with their previous contract having ended three months ago. Approximately 45,000 Empire BlueCross BlueShield patients who go to White Plains Hospital Center, Lawrence Hospital Center in Bronxville, Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco or Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow would have to now pay a more expensive reimbursement rate or seek medical care elsewhere. Failure to reach an agreement also places a strain on the struggling community hospitals, who continue to provide vital care.

With New York singles and families already shelling out one of the nation’s highest average premiums with $6,630 and $13,296 respectively, and with Empire BlueCross BlueShield profiting more than a billion dollars, Senator Gillibrand urged the insurance company to consider the needs of hard-working families. The Senator also expressed concern over interruption of care for patients who decide to change health care providers.

 

Full text of the letter is below.

 

Dear Mr. Wagar,

I am writing to you to express my concern and dismay that negotiations between Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Stellaris Health Network of Hospitals have stalled.  I urge you to return to negotiations on a new multi-year agreement for reimbursement rates for the sake of the patients that need health coverage.

Stellaris is a non-profit system of four hospitals that serve the needs of the residents of Westchester County.  In the past two years, Stellaris has provided nearly $22 million in uncompensated care.  Without proper reimbursement, Stellaris will struggle to continue vital service to their communities.  In the past three years, Empire BlueCross BlueShield reported a profit of more than $1 billion.  A collapse of negotiations will place a further strain on the budgets of families already struggling by forcing them to pay higher premiums or “out-of-network” co-pays that would be required to go to Stellaris or other hospitals.  New Yorkers already pay some of the highest average premiums in the nation with $6,630 for individuals and $13,296 for families.  I urge you to put the care of patients, and the needs of working families, above profit. 

Furthermore, I am also concerned about the interruption of service for patients who will have to change health care providers if this disruption continues.  This could lower the quality of care for these patients due to new doctors who wouldn’t have access to new patient histories.

Again, I respectfully request that you continue negotiations to address these issues as soon as possible.  New York’s patients cannot afford further delay.  Please let me know if you have any further questions or if I can assist in facilitating this conversation in any way.