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Letter: Setting the Record Straight on CommonSpirit Health Negotiations

Our member services team is ready to help our members find affordable care in their community
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 The Longmont Leader received a letter to the editor from Matt Picket, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Colorado about negotiations with CommonSpirit Health  

Affordability matters in healthcare. Ask the nearly 50% of Americans who say they have difficulty affording healthcare costs. Ask the thousands of Colorado employers who directly pay their employees’ healthcare bills how decades of skyrocketing costs have crippled their ability to hire, invest, and grow. The fact is that quality healthcare must go hand in hand with affordable healthcare.

CommonSpirit Health recently chose to leave Anthem’s Colorado network when Anthem refused their demand to dramatically increase prices for care. It was unnecessary.

Anthem has offered CommonSpirit Health reasonable payment rate increases

Despite claims to the contrary, Anthem has offered reasonable overall payment rate increases to CommonSpirit Health that would maintain affordable access to care for our members. We did, however, ask them to reduce their charges for emergency room (ER) services because ER rates at CommonSpirit Health mountain facilities are 232% higher than all other nearby health systems. ER rates at CommonSpirit Health Front Range facilities are 45% higher than all other
nearby health systems. But make no mistake, we have offered CommonSpirit Health a multi-year agreement with reasonable rate increases for all other services.

This is about what you and your employer pay for healthcare

CommonSpirit Health is already one of the most expensive health systems in Colorado. As the Summit Daily News recently reported, one CommonSpirit Health hospital boasts a 35% profit margin. Their demands for additional increases show a callous disregard for the healthcare cost crisis facing our country, not to mention for the people and businesses that pay for healthcare.

For consumers, these price hikes would mean dramatically higher out-of-pocket costs. For employers, they would be even more impactful. Approximately 80% of Colorado businesses use “self-insured” health plans to cover their employees – meaning employers pay the bills for their employees’ healthcare while paying Anthem only a flat administrative fee. We are stewards of their money, and we take that responsibility seriously.

Leaving health plan networks is a dangerous tactic

CommonSpirit Health, part of Catholic Health Initiatives, has a pattern of leaving various health plan networks in other states when they don’t get their way. CommonSpirit Health exited health plan networks in Arizona, California, and Nevada between 20 and 45 days before agreeing to a new contract. Disrupting patient care as a tactic to drive unreasonable prices is counter to CommonSpirit Health’s mission of improving the health of the people they serve, especially those who are vulnerable.

Anthem remains committed to Coloradans

Fortunately, Anthem has many other in-network health care providers across the state. While negotiations between healthcare providers and health plans are an ordinary part of our system of care, CommonSpirit Health’s refusal to reduce emergency room reimbursement rates for Coloradans is anything but ordinary. 
Regardless of CommonSpirit Health’s actions, Anthem is here for our members. Our member services team is ready to help our members find affordable care in their community. Above all, we will continue to protect access to high-quality, affordable care for all Coloradans.