Senate Bill 158
On this week’s show we continued our monthly series with the Medical Association of Georgia. MAG’s CEO/Executive Director, Donald J. Palmisano, Jr. stopped by for a discussion on the state of Senate Bill 158, changes in the insurance contracting arena, and other topics on the MAG agenda. Donald also shared how he and a colleague were able to raise over $40,000 to support the Think About It campaign to raise awareness and fight prescription drug abuse/addiction in Georgia, participating in a 100 mile race and completing it in under 24 hours. In the days since Donald joined us on the show, Senate Bill 158 was passed.
MAG continues to take steps to enhance the relationship between health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, Inc. (BCBSGa) and physicians in the state.
At the end of 2014, Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens rescinded physician contract amendments that BCBSGa had put into place in Georgia following “numerous complaints from physicians (and their practices).”
First MAG/BCBSGa “Physician Advisory Group” meeting took place on February 12. It is forum for physicians to express their concerns, it will give Blue Cross the opportunity to disseminate information about new payer initiatives, it will be a venue for improving communications, and it will serve as a mechanism for physicians to weigh in on Blue Cross’ clinical policies, operations and contracting practices.
The advisory group consists of four MAG member physicians as well as MAG Health Policy and Third Party Payer Advocacy Department Director Susan Moore and BCBSGa Senior Clinical Officer Mark Kishel, M.D., and BCBSGa Director of Network Management/Georgia Provider Solutions Hayden Mathieson. They will meet a minimum of three times a year.
MAG supports legislation that would limit rental networks in Georgia. A rental network involves a health insurer that rents or sells its network of physicians to another health insurer. These second-level insurers then include the physicians in their health insurance plans – and pay the physicians an even deeper discount – even though they don’t have a contract with the physicians.
It’s not uncommon for physicians to offer their services to a health insurer at a discounted rate because the higher patient volume offsets the costs. However, the aforementioned insurers rent or sell their networks without the physician’s knowledge – so the physicians often aren’t aware that they are in a given network or that they are contractually obligated to deliver patient care at a greater discount.
Rental networks result in mass confusion and higher administrative costs (e.g., the additional staff time that is required to verify a patient’s health insurance coverage and/or confirm the proper payment). Rental networks can also reduce the accessibility of care because physicians are forced to accept the lower (i.e., “re-priced” or “re-rented”) payment or refuse to see the patient for any follow-up or future care.
Rental networks are an inappropriate, profit-driven tactic that undermines the practice environment in Georgia that will exacerbate the physician shortage in the state. Sixteen states have now adopted laws that regulate or limit or prohibit rental networks.
Insurers are prohibited from using rental networks in federal employee health benefits plan contracts.
Insurance companies use ‘all-products or all-or-nothing’ clauses as a cost-control tactic to force physicians to participate in every health insurance product that they offer or be blocked from caring for patients in the insurer’s plan altogether.
By forcing physicians and their practices to agree to all-products clauses, health insurers are undermining the economic viability of the medical profession in Georgia – keeping in mind that a report that was prepared by IMS Health for the American Medical Association determined that physicians in Georgia “created a total of $29.7 billion in direct and indirect economic output (i.e., sales revenues) in 2012… [and] each physician supported $1,559,494 in [economic] output.” It is also worth noting that the report found that “…physicians supported 205,869 jobs (including their own)…[and] $1,089.6 million in local and state tax revenues in 2012.”
Because physicians are constantly wrestling with these manipulative contract provisions, they have less time to spend with their patients.
All-products clauses violate several individual rights, including the right to contract and an owner’s right to operate a business in a free and autonomous way.
Physicians and medical practices in Georgia should be free to accept the health insurance products of their choice versus the ones that’s imposed on them by profit-driven insurance companies.
Eleven states have enacted prohibitions on all-products clauses, including Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, and Virginia – as well as Washington, D.C.
Donald Palmisano, CEO, Executive Director of Medical Association of Georgia
- JD Law, Loyola School of Law
- Board of Directors, Physician Advocacy Institute
- Medical Payment Subcommitte Member, State Board of Workers’ Compensation
- Treasurer, Board of Directors, Physicians’ Institute for Excellence in Medicine
- Former Director, Government Relations/General Counsel/Director, GAMPAC