Health Care

Piedmont, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield deal is good news for Columbus patients

When Piedmont Healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia signed an agreement Friday night, it proved to be good news for Columbus patients of Piedmont’s two local hospitals and physician groups.

Piedmont and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia had been locked in a contract dispute that impacted thousands of Georgians because the insurance company is one of the state’s largest insurers, with state and University System of Georgia employees on its rolls.

Top management from both sides met with Gov. Nathan Deal April 17 and announced a handshake agreement. It was finalized three days later.

The existing contract expired on March 31, but now has been extended until the end of May when the new deal will begin. It runs into 2021.

The agreement ensures that Anthem Blue Cross members can see their Piedmont doctors and visit Piedmont hospitals as “in network” without incurring higher out-of-pocket costs, including covering visits and services delivered since April 1, according to a news release by Piedmont.

In March, as the dispute between Piedmont Healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia intensified, it created some confusion in Columbus.

On March 1, Columbus Regional Healthcare and its two hospitals Midtown Medical Center and Northside Hospital merged into the growing Piedmont system.

Though most of the Piedmont hospitals were impacted on April 1 by the dispute with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the two Columbus hospitals and its physician groups were not because they continued to operate under a contract with the insurer that was signed before the merger with Piedmont.

The contract for the Columbus hospitals was to continue through November 2019, said Elisabeth Wang, executive director, Communications and Public Relations for Piedmont Healthcare. The good news for Columbus consumers is when the new contract starts, it will void the current deal and the local hospitals will fall under the new Piedmont agreement that ends in 2021, Wang said.

“Preserving the relationship between the patient and their preferred healthcare provider has been our number one goal during this entire negotiation,” said Kevin Brown, Piedmont Healthcare President and Chief Executive Officer. “We know this has been difficult for our patients, and we are glad to finally have a resolution that restores and protects patient care.”

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams