HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Lawmakers and healthcare advocates met for a public forum on the heels of Hartford Healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield announcing an agreement ending a seven-week dispute that left tens of thousands of patients in the state with limited options and access to treatment.
“About 40,000 people were affected, and this is a seven-week period where thousands upon thousands of people were feeling the disruption, ” said State Representative Sean Scanlon.
The dispute between the insurers forced patients to pay more for care, as their doctors were considered out-of-network.
Now, proposed legislation would protect patients during industry disputes.Related: Hearing still planned on insurance dispute despite agreement
Scanlon said the government needs to have a role to protect people.
“As health systems begin to sort of mass up and we have fewer and fewer healthcare choices that are owned independently, it really hurts the consumer’s ability to make choices beyond their region,” Scanlon said.
Healthcare advocates said disputes between corporations will happen but consumers shouldn’t be caught in the middle.Related: Hartford Healthcare reaches mutli-year deal with Anthem
“The insurer and the hospital can settle up behind the scenes as part of their contract dispute resolution which the consumer doesn’t need to know anything about,” said healthcare advocate Ted Doolittle.
Hartford HealthCare released this statement:
Our contract dispute with Anthem disrupted many of those who rely on us, and for that we are sorry. Our calling in healthcare is not to confuse patients, but to care for them. We never want to put the people we care for in the middle. From the beginning, this was about standing up for the health of our communities achieving a fair contract that allows us to be sustainable, provide care that’s higher quality, more accessible and more affordable.
Senator Martin Looney introduced legislation in 2015 to protect healthcare consumers and is offering it again next year.
“I proposed that we have a binding arbitration process in this kind of dispute so people don’t suddenly find themselves out of network facing potentially surgery or some other major medical event without having coverage,” Looney said.