Remember all those warm banners and advertisements from health insurance companies last year as Covid ravaged healthcare? They proclaimed their support for nurses, doctors and first responders during a terrible year. Banners and Billboards announced a unified front.“WE’RE HERE WITH YOU!”
Even then, I recall thinking how it would all change in about two years and health insurers would be back to squeezing those of us trying to care for patients.
Well, I was off by a year in my prediction.
In our area, Cigna has abruptly pulled out of our large regional healthcare system, consisting of two hospitals, a massive imaging center and 500 doctors. The reason: Cigna demanded sharp decreases in payment to the hospital system. The system said, “No!” and patients are now stranded. Those of us not affiliated with the system were also banned if we refused to immediately get admission privileges at a small hospital with limited specialty support just outside of town.
For virtually every medical specialty, Cigna patients must now travel fifty miles or more. For the handful of primary care doctors still in network with Cigna, caring for these patients became much more complicated.
Within days of this pullout, Cigna added a second blow. Cigna sent a letter to doctors describing severe and lengthy prior authorization restrictions on CT scans and MRI scans. You would think Cigna believes doctors get kickbacks for ordering these scans. The restrictions require so much time and effort, adding many days of delays, that we often just send patients to the ER to avoid the delay. Talk about adding expenses to medical care!
Many of these Cigna patients are rather old with multiple medical problems. They received no warnings from Cigna and are baffled when their specialists contacted them with the news about either cancelling their appointment or paying significantly for out of network care. They feel abandoned and, frankly, they are, unless they prefer to pay out of pocket. Cigna is very vague when patients call for advice as to their out of network expenses.
Thank you, Cigna, for your support in these difficult times. Thank you for shooting us all in the back. Thank you for the patient abandonment. Thank you for assuming I order tests to enrich myself rather than caring for patients.
No, those banners have not aged well at all…