Sunday, December 21, 2014

County: New contract with Cigna will broaden patients’ health care opportunities

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 9/2/2013

The county’s health department wants to serve more residents, Midge Ransom said.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday morning to accept a contract from Cigna, a health insurance company, making it the fourth insurance provider with which the health department has contracted, Ransom, director of the health department, said.

The county’s health department wants to serve more residents, Midge Ransom said.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday morning to accept a contract from Cigna, a health insurance company, making it the fourth insurance provider with which the health department has contracted, Ransom, director of the health department, said.

“[Cigna] is another private insurance company we want to contract with partly because they’ll be one of the marketplace companies in Kansas,” Ransom said. “The marketplace is for those who are uninsured or can’t get insurance through their employer so there’s the insurance exchange.”

The marketplace for insurance exchange is part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will open in October, Ransom said.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is a national health care plan aimed at reforming the American health care system, according to obamacarefacts.com. Its main focus is on providing more Americans with access to affordable health care, regulating the health insurance industry and reducing spending in health care, according to the website.

“With the Affordable Care Act beginning in October, under the act, they‘re setting up private insurance exchanges,” Ransom said. “Companies that choose to be a part of [the insurance exchange] will be another way to get private insurance. Usually it’s not affordable [to get private insurance] unless you have an employer purchasing for you.”

The health department already has contracted with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City and Coventry, Ransom said. Adding Cigna would allow the health department to serve more residents, she said.

“We want to contract with [Cigna] so we can hopefully provide services to [residents],” she said. “Also, there are other people in the community who have private insurance through Cigna, so we’re just adding to the companies we’ll be able to bill to for services.”

Ransom said being able to provide services to more people has always been the goal of contracting with private insurance providers.

“We started with companies that insure the most people in our county and of course Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas is one the biggest insurers,” she said. “We’ll pick up more companies as we are able to.”

Accepting insurance from companies with which the health department is contracted makes billing easier for not only the health department, but the patient seeking services as well, Ransom said.

“Anybody who comes in that has Coventry or Blue Cross of Kansas, if we provide immunizations or an office visit for something, then we can bill their insurance,” she said. “If we don’t do so [the patient] has to file for reimbursement. If you’re not contracted with [that insurance company] they won’t reimburse at the same rate as if you were contracted with them.”

If the health department is not under contract with the insurance provider a patient has, the health department will have to send the bill directly to the patient who will have to pay out of pocket, Ransom said.

“If [a patient] went to a provider who is contracted [with their insurance company] and they’re billed $20, [the insurance company] would pay and the customer would be out nothing out of pocket. It just depends on whether [the insurance provider] will reimburse for not being in network.”

 The contracted agreement between the health department is not finalized, Ransom said. She will have to send it back to Cigna and wait for approval, but hopes the health department will be able to accept Cigna insurance soon.

“I’d assume probably we won’t be able [to accept Cigna] until Jan. 1, 2014,” she said. “We’re happy to pick up more [insurance] companies.”

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