Georgia's governor announced plans on Monday to put even more pressure on a statewide insurance company and the owner of several hospitals as negotiations continue to stall.
In a tweet posted around 9:30 a.m., Governor Nathan Deal gave Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare a deadline before the state would begin getting involved.
"I asked @AnthemInc and @PiedmontHealth to resolve their contract dispute by COB tomorrow or the state will be forced to initiate executive action," he posted.
The strongly worded message comes after Deal's announcement that he would be having a meeting with both companies on Monday to get updates on their negotiations.
He and others have been extremely critical of both companies since contract negotiations fell through in early April affecting an estimated half million customers.
Deal's threat of "executive action" could include re-opening enrollment by state employees into health insurance providers other than BlueCross BlueShield. "I think for BlueCross Blue Shield that would be a major motivator because the state is a reliable payer, and is a huge customer here in Georgia," said Brian Robinson, a former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Deal.
Deal could also change the state's Certificate of Need policy, which could increase the regulatory hurdles for Piedmont HealthCare if it wants to expand its facilities in Georgia. "They have a big interest in Certificate of Need policy," Robinson said. "Which is a major hammer, and which is something the legislature has been looking at intently."
According to a spokesperson for Piedmont Healthcare, the two companies have been unable to work out a new 3-year contract due to issues with the insurance payouts to the hospital.
Piedmont Healthcare said doctors have been working to reduce costs and increase the quality of coverage but the insurance provider suddenly backed off of offering doctors any more money at all.
Piedmont Healthcare spokesperson Matt Gove said that the final offer was instead to pay physicians less than the inflation rate.
In short, without an agreement between the insurance company and the healthcare provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield dropped Piedmont hospitals from its in-network providers.
That directly impacted many Georgians - many of them employed by the state or the university system - since their regular care doctors were no longer covered by insurance.
Deal had previously demanded Piedmont Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia return to the negotiating table for the sake of patients across the state.