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January 3, 2014
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Encore Health Network, a network of health care providers owned by Community Health Network, Indiana University Health and Deaconess Health, has added St. Vincent Health to its fold. The Indianapolis-based network will offer discounted access to St. Vincent doctors and hospitals in the Anderson, Carmel, Fishers, Indianapolis and Kokomo markets. Insurance companies, third-party administrators and employers contract with Encore and its Encircle network products to obtain discounts on medical services.

Indiana University Health and UnitedHealthcare entered the new year without a contract. That would normally mean UnitedHealthcare’s customers would pay higher prices at IU Health’s hospitals and physician offices. But IU Health has decided to still give patients the same "in network" co-pays and deductibles that UnitedHealthcare had negotiated under the expiring contracts, keeping patients’ costs the same until a new deal is reached. IU Health said in a press release it would apply the "in network" discounts only to the patient portions of its bills, not to the portions paid by UnitedHealthcare. The Minnesota-based health insurer first notified its customers on Dec. 2 that its contracts with IU Health could expire at year end. Such contracts typically shave 30 percent or more off the list prices of a hospital system’s services. The contract dispute could affect the roughly 400,000 Hoosiers that have employer-based or individually purchased insurance with UnitedHealthcare. That represents about 12 percent of the Indiana commercial market, according to data from Tennessee-based market research firm HealthLeaders-InterStudy. IU Health operates 20 hospitals and employs nearly 1,500 physicians around Indiana.

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked an Obamacare requirement that religiously affiliated employers provide health insurance that includes birth control. The decision gives temporarily relief to Catholic plaintiffs that said Obamacare’s requirement to provide contraception coverage violated their religious freedom. In a related case, Indiana-based Franciscan Alliance and other Catholic organizations won a temporary injunction from a federal judge in Indiana, to allow the Supreme Court challenge to play out before Franciscan would be required to provide contraception coverage to its workers via its health insurance plan. "We simply asked that the government not impose its values and policies on plaintiffs, in direct violation of our religious beliefs," said Kevin Leahy, CEO of Franciscan Alliance, which operates three hospitals in the Indianapolis area. The Affordable Care Act required all health insurers to cover contraception at no cost to its health plan members and required all employers with 50 or more workers to provide health insurance to their workers. Both provisions were set to take effect Jan. 1.

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