Patients worried as Anthem, Northside Hospital look to cut ties if no agreement reached

ATLANTA — It was a phone call Tonya Lang said left her overwhelmed, after hearing the news from Northside Hospital System that Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield members will no longer be covered if they opt for medical services at any of the Northside facilities.

“There are some doctors that we cannot step away from because of the level of care,” Lang told Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln. “You’re leaving a lot of people hanging.”

Lang said her 9-year-old son Mason has relied on Northside doctors his entire life.

“He has hypo-plastic left heart syndrome,” Lang said.

Lang said Mason was born with half a heart and sees at least five doctors a year. She fears this decision will disrupt the quality of the medical care he receives.

“It will be a very hard transition for Mason,” Lang said. “I don’t know if the other hospitals can provide the level of care that we might get at Northside.”

Northside told Lincoln on Monday that they were hopeful Anthem wouldn’t terminate their contract during their negotiations. They’ve been in contract with Northside for more than 30 years.

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But the insurance provider said the contract is set to expire by the end of the year after both parties couldn’t reach an agreement.

“In the business, you have both parties saying we want to do what’s best for that patient, but they’re not asking you as the patient or that caregiver what really is best,” Lang said.

Northside Vice President of Communications Lee Echols said the decision will impact nearly 400,000 patients. Some of the most vulnerable include patients receiving long-term treatments or those living with serious health conditions.

“You’re in the middle of treatments with these doctors and now it just leaves your whole life kind of scattered,” Lang said.

In a notice on their website, Anthem said it went to the negotiation table with Northside because of rising health care cost.

The company said Northside is one of the most expensive to insure in the state of Georgia.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hospital spending grew more than 6% in 2019.

Lang said she and many families are now left to decide whether to pay out of network cost to keep their Northside doctors or lean on neighboring medical systems.

“We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars that might have to be out of pocket and a lot of people just don’t have that to drop on a hospital bill,” Lang said.

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