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What you need to know about COVID-19 admissions if CHI Memorial leaves our networks

Key Takeaways

  • COVID-19 cases are rising dramatically across Tennessee, and we know our members are concerned about access to care.
  • That’s especially true in the Chattanooga area, where CHI Memorial ended our contract early – during a pandemic – as a negotiating tactic.
  • Our networks include Erlanger, the region’s most comprehensive health care system. Erlanger also offers the only level 1 trauma center and pediatric inpatient care.
  • If needed, we will cover emergency COVID-19 admissions at CHI Memorial with in-network benefits if they leave our networks on Sept. 8.

Since March 2020, Tennesseans have been living with the COVID-19 pandemic — taking health precautions and making sacrifices to protect themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors. Health care workers have been rightly celebrated as the heroes they are.

We value them all and demonstrated our support by streamlining prior authorizations and other processes, and expanding access to telehealth services, during the pandemic. We also provided thousands of meals for frontline health workers across the state.

Unfortunately, business interests appear to outweigh community health for the corporate owners of the CHI Memorial health system here in Chattanooga.

Our existing contract was set to extend through summer 2022. So we were extremely disappointed when they chose to terminate our contract early, in the midst of this ongoing pandemic.

Using this public health crisis as a way to extract higher rates doesn’t appear consistent with the values of CHI Memorial – or the ongoing, laudable efforts of their employees. But their parent company, CommonSpirit Health, is using this approach elsewhere. They’ve had public contract disputes with two other Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in other states, so it seems to be a national strategy.

Our networks include other options for high-quality care in Chattanooga

We’re still trying to reach a new agreement and keep CHI Memorial and their affiliated physicians in our networks. But with COVID-19 cases rising dramatically in our area, it’s natural to feel concerned about access to care if you get infected with the virus.

We want you to know that we will have strong options for in-network care. 

Erlanger is the region’s most comprehensive health care system and is part of all our BlueCross networks. They provide our community with important services like pediatric care (outpatient and inpatient) and the only level 1 trauma center, along with other specialized care. The Erlanger system includes six hospitals, six emergency rooms, three community health centers, adult urgent care, and several physician practices covering a wide range of specialties. And Erlanger offers services for vulnerable groups, including many residents with Medicaid coverage and people who are uninsured.

Blue Network P and our Medicare Advantage network also include Parkridge Health System, which has multiple locations in the area.

How we’ll handle COVID-19 admissions at CHI Memorial if they leave our networks

If you were to end up hospitalized with COVID-19, you’d likely start by seeking care in an emergency room. You could be taken by a family member or ambulance, and members can use the closest ER in a true emergency.

If the ER is unable to stabilize you for a return home, you may be admitted to the hospital for inpatient care. If that happens to you at CHI Memorial, we will apply in-network benefits because it would be an emergency admission. We’ll then pay CHI Memorial our share of the costs.

You’ll always make the most of your benefits by seeking care from an in-network provider like Erlanger, but in case of an emergency we’ll treat the situation as if CHI Memorial were still in your network. But, as an out-of-network provider, Memorial could choose to send you a bill that’s higher than you expect.

Our coverage includes helping you find the care you need

Again, we’re disappointed that CHI Memorial and CommonSpirit Health chose to end our contract early – especially now, when access to care is so important.

But we’re here for you, and we’re working with partners in Chattanooga and across the state to make it easier for them to provide care in the COVID-19 era. We have continuity of care programs in place to help you find alternate providers or arrange to continue care at CHI Memorial under certain circumstances.

If you need help, call the  number on the back of your BlueCross ID card, or log in to BCBST.com and use the live chat feature.

About Dalya Qualls, SVP & Chief Communications Officer

A photo of the authorDalya leads a team responsible for marketing, communication and community relations strategies that reflect the mission-driven culture of BlueCross. She has more than a decade's experience as a communications leader in health care, government services and sports information.

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