SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - There’s a standoff right now on the Suncoast between two health care giants, Cigna insurance and Sarasota Memorial Hospital. If the two companies don’t reach a new deal soon, Cigna customers could lose their privileges at SMH, and be forced to either pay out-of-pocket, or go elsewhere.
“I was extremely surprised,” said North Port Commissioner Jill Luke.
She says if a contract renewal isn’t reached between Cigna and SMH by August 15, she says it will affect nearly 700 city employees.
“I was extremely nervous about that, very concerning for what is going on for the employees,” she told ABC 7.
Last week, she says she received a letter by mail outlining the stalemate between the insurance company and SMH. If no deal is reached, she’ll have to pay out-of-network rates.
“They pay for us to get our annual physical so it’s preventive, our blood work, won’t be able to afford that otherwise if it wasn’t for the insurance coverage,” she said.
The contract was first set to expire on July 15th, but it’s been pushed back by one month. This affects hundreds of government employees, and people who work for many private companies as well.
SMH officials couldn’t provide an on-camera interview on Friday, but in an email statement they said:
“SMH has partnered with Cigna for many years, and we hope to reach a mutually acceptable agreement soon. The July 15 deadline has been extended to Aug. 15. There is a Q&A at smh.com/cigna for people with questions.”
Also on Friday, North Port officials finished drafting two letters, one for Cigna and one for SMH. They state in part that the current dispute is causing concern among the city’s employees and their families. The in-network coverage helps provide a more affordable option for those who help North Port run.Also, there are currently no hospitals in the city except for SMH’s health care center and ER facility.
But many like Luke are hopeful an agreement comes sooner than later.
“You can’t really undo 700 employees and their families, you can’t do that unless looking for alternatives,” she said.
Cigna also provided ABC 7 with a statement:
“We would like for Sarasota Memorial Hospital to remain part of our network, and will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach and agreement that is fair and affordable for Cigna’s customers and clients.”