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Opinion: Anthem undermining patients’ relationships with doctors
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Attendees mingle during an open house at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group's new internal medicine practice office on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Open letter to Anthem/Blue Cross:

From the time I was 4 years old, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. As the baby of 10 children, my mom would pile us kids into the station wagon to go get immunizations from our family doctor. He took care of us. He knew us. Visiting him was “magical.” Stickers were given, balloon animals created, tears often shed, laughs exchanged and boo-boos made all better. And my mom, who managed it all, could breathe a sigh of relief because our family physician was going to help her stay sane.

I wanted to be that kind of magician. So I studied hard, worked long hours and built relationships with my patients that I hoped would last a lifetime. My mythical ability to make it all better is not always going to work, despite my prayers and best efforts. And I know relationships change and are sometimes cut short by tragedy – but they shouldn’t be cut short by an insurance company who wants to stand between the patients I love and the relationships they built with their family doctor.

Over my 25-year career, I have come to accept a lot from insurance companies: endless prior authorizations, phone calls, and prescription drug plans that change every three months. I deal with these hurdles because I think it’s the right thing to do for my patients. I do it because I truly care. Anthem, do you? Your refusal to offer Northeast Georgia Health System — and the community it serves — a fair contract is creating anxiety and negatively impacting the health of thousands in our area.

Your decision to not negotiate in good faith with NGHS and encourage patients to leave their community for care is a slap in the face to your members, their physicians and a health system that provides more than $48 million in charitable care each year. Are you willing to do that, Anthem? Will you fill that gap if you limit NGHS’ financial ability to provide that care?

Your tactics are far from “magical.” They undermine the relationships people have with their physicians, their health systems and, ultimately, their health. I wonder how you would feel if you spent a day practicing beside me and actually talking to people who need care. Thanks to your refusal to help people, instead of talking about strategies to improve diabetes or blood pressure control, my “magical” moments are reduced to hugs goodbye from grateful patients who seem forced to find other options.

I still believe in the good. I still believe in the magic of family medicine and impactful relationships that transcend distance and red tape. I believe everyone deserves the right to see the physicians they choose and be healthy. I believe that speaking up for those who feel voiceless can move your hearts to change, or I wouldn’t be writing this letter. What do you believe, Anthem? More importantly, what do your actions say about what you value?

Dr. Monica Newton


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