HOUSTON (Covering Katy News) - The Cigna insurance company has told Memorial Hermann it will end its commercial contract on March 16, 2020. The move will impact the care of an estimated 178,000 people who are currently insured by Cigna and are utilizing doctors who are in the Memorial Hermann network. Those Cigna clients will have to find different doctors to treat them.
Cigna claims the Memorial Hermann system has refused "to negotiate rates that would keep health care affordable for Cigna customers." The Memorial Hermann Health System claims it is negotiating and is willing to continue talking.
Cigna says the current problems began when Memorial Hermann recently went up on its rates.
"Earlier this year, Memorial Hermann unilaterally raised the list price of its services, making it much more expensive for Cigna customers when they get care from Memorial Hermann’s hospitals, doctors and facilities," said a statement that Cigna provided to Covering Katy News.
"Since then, Memorial Hermann has refused to engage in meaningful negotiations with Cigna that would bring rates for Cigna customers in line with what the hospital system charges other customers," the statement said. "Unfortunately, Memorial Hermann thinks that Cigna customers should pay more than anyone else, and we think that’s just wrong," the statement said.
Cigna's position is that health care is purchased and consumed locally so the rates charged for that care should reflect local costs and should be competitive with market rates.
Memorial Hermann spokeswoman Alex Loessin told the Houston Chronicle that the hospital system has attempted to find common ground during negotiations. According to the Chronicle report, Memorial Hermann offered a program where health care reimbursements are tied to hospital performance. Memorial Hermann reportedly says it's ready to continue negotiations. Cigna says it, too, is ready to keep talking.
"We would very much like to keep Memorial Hermann in our network, but not at the excessively high rates that it’s expecting our customers to pay," the Cigna statement said.
So what happens next for customers of Cigna? The large insurance company says its employees are ready to answer customer questions about the major change in coverage.
"Cigna has an extensive network in greater Houston and its customer service representatives are available 24/7/365 to help customers choose an in-network doctor or hospital. Customers can also access Cigna's provider directory online at myCigna.com or by using the myCigna mobile app," said the company statement.
Cigna customers receiving ongoing care for certain conditions may be able to continue their care at Memorial Hermann at the in-network benefit level for a set period of time under their plan’s continuity of care guidelines. Cigna customer service representatives can also help with those arrangements.
Cigna's action does not affect its Medicare Advantage plans.