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Court stops Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield's threatened termination of healthcare

The announcement comes just hours before the deadline on Dec. 31.

ATLANTA — Northside Hospital has been granted "injunctive relief" but the Superior Court of Fulton County, temporarily stopping the termination of healthcare coverage for more than 400,000 Georgians by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

In a statement from Anthem, a spokesperson said the current contract has been extended for 30 days as a result of the court order.

The negotiations have been going on for months, trying to reach an agreement before the deadline of Dec. 31. At that point, 400,000 patients in Georgia would have been out of network if they had Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which means they'd either have to pay out-of-pocket or find new doctors.

"The decision by the Superior Court of Fulton County enables Anthem members who seek care at Northside’s hospitals, clinics, and physician practices to remain fully covered and in-network while the parties work towards a long-term resolution," a statement from Northside reads.

In its court filings, the hospital cited a Georgia law (House Bill 454) that states:

“In the event of a public health emergency…..an insurer shall, for a period commencing on the effective date of the public health emergency and ending 150 days after the expiration of such public health emergency…..be prohibited from terminating a provider from the insurer’s network…..”

The action is only a temporary solution to the deadline terminating on Friday. However, patients will still be able to use Northside doctors and hospitals and continue their care. 

Earlier this month, 11Alive spoke to a woman who has immune issues and sees a long list of doctors at Northside. She was frustrated then, said at the time that frustration was turning into panic as the deadline loomed. 

"I really didn't think it would get to this point," Nancy Driskell said.

Driskell spent the last few weeks hoping Anthem and Northside would come to a resolution since she and her husband have four doctor's appointments and two procedures planned next month. 

"We all know what anesthesiologists what pathologists what the surgeon what the operating room the light person, everything," she said. "And if you step out of the box, it's gonna be significant to your purse."

If a resolution didn't arrive, and all her Northside doctors were suddenly out of network, she then said she would have tried to hold out as long as possible to keep her visits online. 

Driskell is one of 400,000 Georgians impacted, since Anthem covers state workers and those in the University System of Georgia. 

Northside said in a statement that Anthem members can continue to receive health care services at any Northside location or physician practice on an in-network basis after Jan. 1.

"The injunction issued by the courts is a temporary measure to ensure Anthem patients can still access care within the Northside Healthcare System. In the meantime, Northside will continue its discussions with Anthem, with the intention of reaching a long-term agreement that provides the best benefits to patients and their families," the statement reads.

Anthem provided the following statement about the court order:

Recognizing the need for access to care during this ongoing pandemic is why we began negotiations early and have been working in good faith for seven months to reach a new agreement with Northside on behalf of our customers and members. Continuing the current contract will not achieve the affordability or quality improvements we have been seeking from Northside, which is why we will not stop our good faith negotiation efforts until we reach an agreement that is in the best interests of consumers.