June 28, 2013

Anthem defends network plan to state regulators

Proposal that excludes some hospitals has come under fire from doctors and patients.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Central Maine Healthcare, the parent of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, and Bridgton and Rumford hospitals, has slammed the Anthem-MaineHealth plan as a "backroom" deal that discriminates against consumers in central and western Maine.

Central Maine Healthcare filed a lawsuit seeking the release of information filed by Anthem with the Bureau of Insurance.

Gwen Simons, a member of the board of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, said the advocacy group questions whether the proposed network would be able to handle the influx of uninsured consumers who buy coverage through the exchange.

"Anthem should bear a heavier burden of proof that the network is adequate," Simons said at the hearing. "Will there be sufficient capacity to serve an increase in consumers?"

Six members of the public spoke at the hearing. Five supported Anthem's proposed network with MaineHealth, saying it would help them save money.

"I support the collaboration between Anthem and MaineHealth," said Renee Loring of Hallowell. "It provides individual consumers and small businesses the right to choose a lower-cost product with a smaller network. This proposal provides me the opportunity to save money."

Alice Stevens of West Gardiner said she doesn't understand the concern about Anthem's network excluding some hospitals.

"I think Maine people like me will want to see an option that saves money," Stevens said.

Only one Anthem subscriber spoke against the narrow network, because it would exclude her physicians at Central Maine Medical Center.

Brenda Weeks of Auburn, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a power wheelchair, said she needs a mix of care providers to manage her chronic disease and she doesn't want to find new doctors and travel a long distance to see them.

"What you are proposing to do will turn my world upside down," Weeks said.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: jhall@pressherald.com

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