An impasse between an insurer and a health care provider was the subject of a hearing with lawmakers that began on Tuesday morning.
A contract dispute between Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Hartford Healthcare lasted seven weeks and forced patients to make alternative and sometimes costly care decisions. The disruption affected hundreds of thousands of people.
“A quote that sums up why we are here today. It says, 'it’s scary we’re going to go into paralyzing debt because these two companies can’t reach an agreement,' she says," Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Democrat from Guilford on the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said. “We’re here today to try and find out what happened and more importantly, where we’re doing.”
On Tuesday, lawmakers said they're taking a closer look at what led to the issue.
"I want to begin by saying on behalf of myself and colleagues at Hartford healthcare, we are sorry disrupting care for patients seeking our help," Dr. James Cardon with Hartford Healthcare said.
That's how Tuesday's hearing started with Cardon's apology.
Anthem and Hartford Healthcare reached an agreement earlier this month. Connecticut lawmakers said these companies need to be held to a higher standard.
"I’m really glad they came to a deal," Scanlon said. "I think it’s great for the State of Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean we should just forget the last seven weeks and pretend this didn’t happen. We need answers. The public deserves answers.”
Scanlon said he was also glad that representation from both companies came to the hearing and that they apologized for the impasse.
"But, I didn't hear too many concrete solutions on their end as to how we can avoid this in the future," Scanlon said.
Lawmakers are looking at a few proposals. One would prohibit a disruption of coverage while companies are negotiating and to force these companies to have an arbitrator if they can't reach an agreement on their own.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said these are not just two private companies operating in a vacuum. Lembo said hundreds of thousands of patients are waiting for surgery and care.
"We have to think of this like a utility and now about two private companies who are going to future it out and we are just going to be OK with the result," Lembo said. "The time for that is over. These are big corporate entities."
The state comptroller said this is the time for government to get involved in this issue.
Scanlon said he may introduce some legislation next year to prevent it from happening again.
"From missed doctor’s appointments to rescheduled surgeries and the unpredictability that this put in people’s lives is really concerning to me and the fellow members of my committee, and that’s one of the major reasons why we decided to do this hearing," he said.
Given what happened between Anthem and Hartford Healthcare, Scanlon said he's a little anxious about next year's negotiations between Anthem and Yale-New Haven.
The insurance commissioner, Katharine Wade, said they’re looking into all of the claims from people, who said they couldn’t get the care they needed.
The vice president of Provider Solutions at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield was also on the agenda to speak and answered questions from lawmakers.
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