A financial battle is brewing between Willis-Knighton Health System and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance, and it could soon affect health insurance coverage for many people in the Ark-La-Tex.
The battle centers around insurance payments to doctors.
In a written statement Willis-Knighton said that current payments are, "well below market rates." In a separate written statement, this one from BCBS to its customers, stated that Willis- Knighton plans to cancel the current contract on May 15 unless a new agreement is reached.
If a new deal cannot be reached, customers with Willis-Knighton doctors will have two choices. The first choice: find a new doctor that is still in the preferred network. The second choice: keep the Willis-Knighton doctor and pay any bills up front. Then file insurance claims on your own, hoping for reimbursement, depending on your medical plan.
Some see this development as just the latest example of middle class Americans getting squeezed more and more.
"The middle class is absorbing a lot of the pain as we move forward, whether it's in insurance or cost of living raises, people losing their jobs all over the place," said BCBS customer Michael Donlan. "It's very difficult."
Medical expenses for the average person can be confusing enough. Now imagine you've just gone through signing up for health care under the Affordable Care Act and chose BCBS. Many did so assuming they could see a Willis-Knighton physician. But in just one month that may not be the case.
Michelle Boaze of Shreveport is a new BCBS customer and she knew nothing about the pending deadline between her insurance company and the hospital.
"This is all new to me but, I'm kind of disappointed because you know, Willis-Knighton's a good hospital," she said.
And some BCBS customers are siding with Willis-Knighton, not the insurance company, which they see as worried more about profits than patients.
"It seems like they're paying less and less as these claims progress, you know, more out-of-pocket expenses," said David Chambrelli.
While the deadline for a new insurance payment deal is not until mid-May, BCBS sent a letter back on March 28 to its customers. It said their insurance would continue to provide covered benefits at the preferred level to Willis-Knighton doctors until June 26. That's 90 days from the date of the letter.