Harrison/Regence split inspires legislation

The messy split between Harrison Medical Center and Regence BlueShield last year was the inspiration for a bill introduced Wednesday in the state Senate.

Sen. Rolfes

Senate Bill 5648, sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, would add a section to the state Patient Bill of Rights to “ensure continuity of health insurance coverage in the event of a split between hospitals and insurers,” according to a news release.

The bill would add a section to the Bill of Rights guaranteeing patients in-network access to their hospital through the end of their plan year, even if their insurance carrier drops its contract with the hospital.

For example, if an insurance company terminated its contract with a hospital in August, those customers could still access the hospital at an in-network level through the end of December, and couldn’t be balance billed for the full cost of their care.

The bill is supported by the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

“When you buy a health plan, you expect to have access to vital providers when you need them,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in the release. “You also expect to pay the costs your policy outlines. This legislation would protect consumers from potentially huge financial bills that could arise during a contract breakdown.”

Rolfes began researching the issue after hearing complaints from Kitsap constituents following the termination of Regence’s contract with Harrison.

Rolfes and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner prodded the two sides into reaching a deal that would prevent Harrison from balance billing Regence customers for emergency care.

The agreement was retroactive back to the August termination date. (Harrison representatives said the hospital hadn’t been balance billing Regence customers anyway).

You can read my most recent post about the Harrison/Regence situation here.

SB 5648

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