Insurance company says Ballad asked for unsustainable rate increase

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Ballad Health is in “active negotiations” to extend its contract with insurance giant BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBS) and expects to reach an agreement before the current one expires Jan. 1, the hospital system told News Channel 11.

The insurance company, meanwhile, said in a statement that Ballad asked for rate increases “representing tens of millions of dollars more than what they earn now.”

Ballad and BCBS are nearing the end of a three-year contract.

“Ballad later notified us they would leave all BlueCross networks if we don’t agree to these higher costs that would raise rates for our members,” BCBS wrote, though it added that “negotiations are moving in the right direction.”

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) updates state employees and those who are teachers, higher education employees or local government employees on the status of major contracts between insurers and hospital systems that are currently negotiating.

An Oct. 20 “Frequently Asked Questions about Current Medical Network Negotiations” lists three health systems with pending negotiations and dates by which the systems would be out of network if negotiations aren’t successful.

That document says that if Ballad and BlueCross “Network S” and “Network P” can’t reach an agreement, Ballad hospitals and affiliated providers would leave the network effective Jan. 1.

“Ballad Health and BlueCross BlueShield have a very positive relationship, and we are currently in active negotiations to extend our contract for another three years,” an Oct. 24 emailed statement from Ballad said. “We are highly confident we will reach an agreement in the next 30 days.”

The email also said coming within 90 days of a deadline is “the normal cycle for negotiation of contracts.”

For its part, BCBS said it had “shared multiple proposals” as it works to reach a new agreement and that it would “stay focused on advocating for affordable care and coverage because Tri-Cities employers and our members can’t sustain the cost increases Ballad wanted.”