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Residents concerned over Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Blue Cross contract issues

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - For Sue Ashby and her husband there is a lot of concern.  If a contract renewal agreement isn't reached between Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield by March 31st, then the entire healthcare system will be considered out of network.

"I'm just feeling a little bit of uncertainty," said Ashby. "I'm waiting to have some procedures done and if they fall after April 1st what happens where do I go. Do I have to start the whole thing all over again, you know it's just uncertainty."

Many Florida Blue Cross Blue Shield policyholders recently received a letter from their provider directing them to the six other hospitals in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, just in case this contract can't be resolved.  Jack Lungmus is an insurance broker who has concerned clients, most of whom have Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage.

"There really aren't many alternatives to what Sarasota Memorial can provide and there certainly are no other alternatives to Florida Blue," said Lungmus.  "It seems to me that they have to be able to figure a way to work this out."

The main sticking points with this contract negotiation are over protection from claim denials and disputes and prompt payment for services that have been done. Also, the hospital is asking for a small rate increase for it's physicians. In a statement we had received from Sarasota Memorial Hospital in part it says "Insurance contracts are not just about rates and reimbursement, but also important protections for our patients and community health system. While we cannot guarantee that we will reach an agreement tomorrow or even next week, we remain in active discussions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield and are making steady progress each day. We remain optimistic that we can reach a new agreement before the existing one expires on March 31."  For Sue Ashby, her husband and many others they are hopeful this agreement happens much sooner, rather than later.

"The patient at the end of the day is the most important person," said Ashby. "It's the person you're going to mend and you really need to get together sort out a deal you're happy with, both of you."

If you have any questions or concerns about this, you can contact Blue Cross Blue Shield at 1-800-352-2583 or call Sarasota Memorial Hospital at 941-917-1540.