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WellPoint unit, hospital group hit impasse on contract

October 2, 2014

Contract talks broke down Wednesday between Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and a network of five hospitals and other facilities across Connecticut, leaving tens of thousands of residents facing higher health insurance costs.

Anthem, a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., and Hartford HealthCare missed a deadline to reach an agreement, which kicked the hospitals out of the insurance company's providers network. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers face paying higher out-of-network rates for getting care at Hartford HealthCare medical centers.

It wasn't clear when negotiations would resume. Both sides said they remain open to more discussions.

The five affected Hartford HealthCare hospitals are Hartford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, MidState Medical Center in Meriden, The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich and Windham Hospital. Other Hartford HealthCare providers would be kicked out of Anthem's network on Nov. 1, including the VNA HealthCare system and Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield for mentally ill patients.

Hartford recently sent a letter to 104,500 people who have Anthem coverage who have been patients in the past year to warn them about the situation.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Attorney General George Jepsen and other state officials called for Anthem and Hartford HealthCare to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.

"We're not interested in assigning blame," Malloy and Wyman said in a prepared statement. "We want to make sure that everyone in our state has access to affordable, high-quality health care. We simply cannot let profit margins stand in the way of that goal."

Details of the contract talks and sticking points weren't released.

Hartford HealthCare officials said in a written statement that they needed Anthem to be a partner "as we transition health care to a value-based model, which focuses on improving quality outcomes, lowering costs and improving access to care for the patients and communities that rely on us."

Anthem released a statement Wednesday saying it also wanted to reach "fair and sustainable contract terms."

"Our priority right now is to our members and ensuring that they have access to ongoing and uninterrupted high quality health care," the group said.

WellPoint stock fell nearly 1 percent Thursday morning, to $117 per share.

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