Blue Cross postpones payment policy amid criticism

After being criticized that its new payment policy would push small, rural hospitals "into deep, deep red ink," Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota has postponed its implementation of the new reimbursement plan.

The rollout of the new policy, which was slated to go into effect Wednesday and lowers payments to about 50 hospitals by hundreds of thousands of dollars, will be pushed back to Jan. 1.

"Blue Cross is striving to be thoughtful and responsive to the operational and financial planning challenges of these hospitals," the insurer said in a statement. However, it reiterated that the new payment policy is necessary to transform from the existing fee-for-service system that results in wide variations in hospital rates, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Instead, Blue Cross claims the new reimbursement system is "a more transparent, predictable and fairer way to pay for care," the Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Blue Cross also said it would work with affected hospitals to help ease the transition, including helping pay for software licensing fees for the new system and offer additional training and provide a safety net for certain hospitals that applies to members' medical costs, the Pioneer Press reported.

"We're all breathing a sigh of relief," George Gerlach, CEO of city-owned Granite Falls Municipal Hospital and Manor which could lose $900,000 under the new model, told the Star Tribune. "I had a direct phone call this morning from Blue Cross and Blue Shield and I sense a change in their approach to how they'll deal with this. Maybe that'll open up some communications."

To learn more:
- read the Minneapolis Star Tribune article
- see the Pioneer Press article
- check out the Minnesota Public Radio article