Another letter arrived last week from Children’s Hospital reminding me that they were in the middle of major negotiations with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Reimbursement rates are the contentious issue, with one side that they need to pay less and they other saying they can’t afford to. As they got closer to a July deadline, I think it’s time for some straight talk about what this may mean. Not just to parents WITH kids earthside, but those parents planning to give birth at one of Allina’s cutely named “MotherBaby Centers”.
OK, I’m no fan of Allina, something I made abundantly clear during both strikes, as well as pointing out that they have engaged in the exact same kind of bait and switch that got a mom a massing legal settlement last year. Should Children’s lose their BCBS contract, families who are planning to give birth at Abbott, United, or Mercy will be facing the possibility of facing financial ruin.
Crazy, right? But here’s the reality:
The “baby” part of the MotherBaby Center is handled by Children’s. If your little one ends up in Special Care or the NICU, all care is then given by Children’s. Now, in the past, this arrangement has already hurt families–Allina’s Lactation and Children’s Lactation Services are by no means equal. Lost in the shuffle, parents don’t get a very important nurse visit after they go home. Communication between two entities can be pretty awful.
But if you have BCBS insurance and are planning on giving birth at any Allina facility– or even a system that defaults all very serious NICU cases to Abbott (Unity’s NICU isn’t quite as robust)–here’s what a lack of contract deal would mean:
You give birth. In the chance that your baby needs extra care, your baby goes to a higher-level care facility. You may gave your birth paid for, but the baby’s care won’t be in network.
Let’s say a mom is on BluePlus– a Medical Assistance plan administered through an outside company. If that baby goes to the Special Care Nursery or the NICU—will the baby get turned away? Will the parents be separated from their kids?
Or let’s say the midwives at one of the Minnesota Birth Centers or Health Foundations decide a baby needs extra help. All of a sudden a family is facing huge costs from being forced to get care out of network.
Or, as I have learned, a mom with prenatal care at another hospital system shows up at Abbott or United because the marketing makes it seem like a better choice, will they end up going through hell if they don’t end up with a healthy baby?
Do you see how this works?
Look, I’m not a huge fan of BCBS. They are doing some pretty wackadoo things to providers. They haven’t always been my favorite as a patient. But Children’s? With your stupid galas and fundraising? Have you thought this through?
Probably not. As is usually the case, the powers that be at the top think of the birthing patients and their babies last. I mean, after all–what’s screwing over a bunch of families if it means they have more money? It’s better to hurt the smallest patients than have a smaller bottom line, right?