Lawmakers may investigate as Humana drops hospitals

Humana (NYSE: HUM), seemingly abruptly, announced it will stop paying for medical visits and care for its Medicare members at two hospitals in West Virgina next month. However, federal lawmakers are watching the situation and may get involved if deemed necessary.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said he'll investigate Humana's decision. "I'm currently looking into this situation. Seniors absolutely must be able to get access to quality, affordable health care," he told the Charleston Gazette.

Additionally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will look at Humana's relationship with the health systems and answer questions, the Gazette notes.

Humana notified Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston and Saint Francis Hospital in Charleston that it will no longer provide coverage after Feb. 1, but it provided no detailed explanation for withdrawing from its contracts.

"This was a complete blindside," said Paige Johnson, director of marketing and public relations for the Thomas Health System. "We will do everything we can to contest this issue."

Humana might be backtracking on its decision to drop the two hospitals. "Humana is working quickly to explore available options to resolve this issue for all of our members in the Charleston area," Jeff Blunt from Humana's office of Regional Strategic Communications for West Virginia told the Gazette. "We are in communication with key parties including appropriate state and federal regulatory agencies. It's our hope to continue uninterrupted in-network access to these hospitals [and the four-hospital CAMC system] for our West Virginia Medicare members in 2012."

To learn more:
- read the Charleston Gazette article about the dropped hospitals and another article on the Medicare beneficiaries