CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — Friday afternoon, Cherokee County asked to join as a plaintiff in the Northside hospital lawsuit against Anthem.
Anthem, a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association health insurance provider, filed an emergency motion leaving the in-network healthcare coverage of over 400,000 patients up in the air.
It’s been a back and forth between Anthem and Northside Hospital. In Dec. 2021, a tense contractual standoff put hundreds of thousands of patient’s healthcare coverage at risk, because the two sides didn’t reach a new agreement by Dec. 31. Anthem accused Northside of charging too much.
Just before the deadline, the Superior Court of Fulton County granted Northside Hospital "injunctive relief", extending coverage for patients until the end of January, temporarily stopping the termination of healthcare coverage for over 400,000 patients.
On Jan. 11, Anthem confirmed to 11Alive the filing of an emergency motion to terminate the temporary restraining order that is allowing Northside Hospital patients to remain in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield. If granted, that would end coverage for patients immediately.
Now, Cherokee County filed a Motion to Intervene as a plaintiff and a new emergency hearing has been scheduled for January 26th, where all three sides are expected to be heard. In the newly filed motion, it states Anthem provides health care coverage for around 47 percent of Cherokee County residents and 55 percent of Cherokee County employees.
“The lives of these residents and employees are being imperiled by the threatened termination of Northside Hospital and numerous Northside physicians and practice groups from Defendants’ physician network amid the greatest COVID outbreak since the start of the pandemic,” the paperwork reads.
An attorney representing Cherokee County told 11Alive, the county’s main hospital is Northside, meaning if Anthem patients went in network for an emergency, an ambulance would need to drive at least another 20 minutes. To go out of network, patients would be crippled with costs.
“Cherokee County brings this action to ensure that Anthem cannot deprive Georgia citizens of necessary, accessible, affordable, high-quality care in the middle of a public health emergency,” the motion declared.
Patients like Nancy Driskell previously told 11Alive, they feel abandoned.
"It just seems like they’re both taking their marbles and going home not looking to help out anymore," said Driskell. "The anxiety is so high I keep hoping Anthem and Northside are gonna get together on something."
Anthem offered the following statement when they first filed an emergency motion to terminate the temporary restraining order.
“Our members can rest assured knowing that we cover emergency care, including treatment for COVID, at any provider, whether that provider chooses to be in our network or not. Ensuring access to care is why we began negotiations early and have been working in good faith for seven months to reach a new agreement with Northside. We have given Northside a proposal with generous increases – one they could sign immediately – yet they have refused. Northside wishes to continue operating under a contract that will not achieve the affordability or quality improvements we have been seeking, and our members deserve. We’d like Northside to join us in focusing solely on reaching an agreement that is in the best interests of consumers.”