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Saint Francis most recent target of BlueCross network disruption

Jeremy Clark cut outBy Jeremy Clark

As a local healthcare leader providing care for the people in our community, Saint Francis embraces and enjoys many partnerships that make our mission possible.

Some of these include working with other healthcare companies and some are simply with local individuals who advocate for what we provide our community. Regardless of their nature, these relationships are vital to the one thing Saint Francis does – provide high-quality, accessible and affordable care to our community.

Since opening in June 2004 as the first, full-service health care facility in our community, Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett has focused on consistently providing exceptional treatment and attention to everyone from new moms and their babies to senior citizens.

We provide 24-hour emergency care, same-day surgery, expansive labor and delivery suites and many other health care services, paired with compassionate, personal attention our patients expect and deserve.

All to say, if you’ve visited Saint Francis lately, then you know that we are more than a hospital. We’re a vital part of Bartlett and the surrounding community. Combined with our sister hospital, Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis, we employ more than 2,000 people to the tune of nearly $140 million in local economic support every year.

Meeting the healthcare needs of our community is a priority and accomplishing it requires managing our organization responsibly – both clinically and financially.

One way we do that is by negotiating with our health insurance partners regularly to secure contracts that cover the cost of care we provide to their members, our patients.

But right now, we’re in a situation where BlueCross wants to push Saint Francis out of its network, and this will occur unless an agreement can be reached before December 1.

We’re not the first hospital or health system to be served with a termination notice in Tennessee. BlueCross has had fights with other hospitals across the state, demanding big rate cuts. Baptist Memorial in Memphis, Memorial and Erlanger in Chattanooga and Mountain States Health Alliance in East Tennessee, have all been in the crosshairs.

Unfortunately, Saint Francis and our Memphis community is the most recent target of possible network disruption and instability.

What’s confusing and frustrating is that by removing Saint Francis from their network, BlueCross will be eliminating a high quality, low cost provider. Without Saint Francis in network, BlueCross members may be driven to a higher cost provider and one that is less convenient.

While demanding double-digit cuts from providers like Saint Francis, BlueCross premiums are increasing for individuals and employers. Media reports from across the state have referenced BlueCross’ rising premiums – a 20- to- 30-percent increase in rates for individuals and 10-percent increases for small employers in 2014.

We know our patients pay their premiums to have in-network access to the health providers they need. If BlueCross is raising premiums even higher and cutting payments to providers, it begs the question – where are your premium dollars going if not to your hospital or doctor?

We want to work collaboratively with BlueCross in caring for their members, and we want to accept BlueCross insurance. We embrace relationships that help us meet the healthcare needs of our community. But what BlueCross is currently proposing is not partnership. A new agreement must be fair and reasonable for all involved.

We’ve set up a website for our community to go to for answers, more information and to show support of our hospitals in our efforts with BlueCross. Please visit www.keepstfrancisblue.com for more information.

Jeremy Clark is CEO of Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett. Visit www.saintfrancishosp.com, www.saintfrancisbartlett.com, or www.keepsaintfrancisblue.com.

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