Business & Real Estate

Dignity Health, Anthem Blue Cross continue talks beyond contract termination deadline

San Francisco-based Dignity Health and Anthem Blue Cross have gone into overtime on negotiations for a new contract, but both sides appeared confident of an eventual agreement.

Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng said Wednesday that the existing contract between Dignity and Anthem expired July 15, but the termination deadline has been extended on a daily basis by mutual agreement of both parties.

Asked if he was confident of an upcoming agreement, Ng said, “We’re hopeful.”

Dignity Health’s regional service area includes Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael, Mercy Hospital of Folsom, Woodland Healthcare in Woodland and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley.

Some Anthem Blue Cross members recently received letters warning of a possible contract termination between Anthem Blue Cross and Dignity. Ng characterized it as a relatively small, limited mailing.

On Tuesday, a Merced Sun-Star news story reported concerns among Anthem-covered members that a contract termination would create problems at Merced’s only hospital, Dignity’s Mercy Medical Center. In that story, however, Ng noted the daily extension of the contract termination deadline. He said Anthem members could continue going to Dignity facilities, but recommended that they call in advance to make sure there were no changes in network coverage.

Ng reiterated that to The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday.

In a statement, Dignity said its current contract with Anthem “remains in place as the two parties negotiate a new agreement. Anthem members can continue to access Dignity Health services using their in-network benefits, and companies with Anthem plans can reassure employees that they may continue to utilize Dignity Health hospitals, physicians and ambulatory providers.”

Dignity officials would not elaborate on the progress of ongoing contract negotiations, which cover the payment rates to physicians and medical providers.

Letters warning of possible contract terminations are not unusual amid extended contract negotiations.

In December, Sacramento-based Sutter Health reached a multi-year agreement with Anthem, but not before some Anthem members received a letter from the health plan stating that they were assigned to a new primary care doctor and/or medical group effective Jan. 1. The subsequent agreement, however, enabled Anthem members to keep their Sutter Health doctors. Those who had enrolled with a new medical group upon receiving the letter were allowed to re-enroll with a Sutter-affiliated doctor.