Newswise — Today, the American Society of Anesthesiologists expressed grave concern about the strong-arm tactics of BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina and its abuse of the new federal law designed to protect patients from out-of-network bills. The letters being sent to anesthesiology and other physician practices in the state threaten contract termination and the physicians’ in-network status unless the physicians immediately agree to payment reductions ranging from 10 to over 30%. Implementation of the No Surprises Act is cited in the letters as the impetus for the reductions. The clear intent of the insurance company in taking this action is to improve its negotiating position against community physician practices in the dispute resolution process outlined in the recently released Interim Final Rule implementing the legislation.

The No Surprises Act, which was passed in December 2020, was designed to protect patients from surprise out-of-network bills. Although the law intended to resolve payment disputes through an impartial arbitration system, recent rules promulgated by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury will create a system that unfairly favors insurance companies. The evidence of this bias and this insurance company’s intention to exploit the new rules is clearly demonstrated in the demand letters from BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina weeks before the law even takes effect.

“Instead of expanding in-network access for patients, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina has demonstrated what we explained to Congress and the rule-making agencies would happen: insurance companies will use their overwhelming market power and the No Surprises Act’s flawed rules to push more physicians out of insurance networks and fatten their own bottom line.” said ASA President Randall M. Clark, M.D., FASA. “Insurance companies are threatening the ability of anesthesiologists to fully staff hospitals and other health care facilities. Left unchecked, actions like these of BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina will ultimately compromise timely access to care for patients across the country.”

ASA has previously called upon the U.S. Department of Justice to address these and other recent anticompetitive insurance company tactics.