A contract dispute between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare that has disrupted medical services for potentially hundreds of University of North Georgia employees prompted Gov. Nathan Deal this week to direct the two sides back to the negotiating table.
“My administration will not sit idly by during this contract dispute and leave our state and university system employees, teachers and their families in the balance,” Deal said in a statement. “My top priority is the well-being of our members. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare must return to the negotiating table, and Blue Cross Blue Shield must honor the contractual obligations made to the state.”
There are 1,316 UNG employees covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, according to UNG Chief of Staff Kate Maine, not including dependents. Of those, 424 are based on the Gainesville campus.
It is unclear how many UNG employees use Piedmont’s services or providers, Maine added.
“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare must come to a quick resolution to this contract dispute so additional costs are not incurred by employees of the University System of Georgia and the state,” University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a statement. “We will continue to explore all options to ensure employees and their families have continued access to the health care they have been relying on through the University System of Georgia health care plans.”
About 600,000 state employees, retirees and their families in all are affected by the recent contract disruption, according to Deal.
His office announced Tuesday, April 3, that the state and University System of Georgia would absorb out-of-network claims for affected employees for up to 30 days “in order to minimize patients’ financial burdens.”
“If an equitable solution is not reached, I’ve directed the Department of Community Health and the State Health Benefit Plan to explore all possible solutions to ensure our members have access to care,” Deal said. “The university system stands ready to take similar action on behalf of its employees. This step is necessary in order to protect our citizens from unanticipated costs and interruption to care.”
Maine said UNG officials are grateful for the support of Deal and Wrigley to ensure employees have continued access to health coverage.
“The University System of Georgia has provided information regularly to employees over the past couple of weeks to keep us apprised of negotiations, and we shared the attached information from the USG with employees …” she added.