|By Kirk Brown, Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
MEDcare Urgent Care is pressuring
"We are fighting as advocates for our patients," Hallaba wrote in an email last week. "When an insurance company excludes a physician out of a network, it traps patients, who have to pay higher out-of-network fees to continue to see their provider of choice."
In a bulletin issued last month, BlueCross BlueShield said the restructuring of its urgent-care network is a response to a rapid expansion of
Seen as a less expensive alternative to hospital emergency rooms, urgent-care providers range from pharmacies that primarily offer flu shots and other vaccinations to larger centers staffed by emergency medical professionals.
"Our decision fits into a national trend of creating smaller provider networks across all medical specialties," said BlueCross BlueShield spokeswoman
BlueCross BlueShield provides health insurance for nearly 1 million people in
"Only a very small percentage of our membership will be affected" as a result of the decision by BlueCross BlueShield to remove MEDcare and
Both companies will remain network providers for people who bought coverage through the federal health-insurance marketplace, as well as for many state employees and those with BlueChoice Medicaid coverage or
The MEDcare clinic in
Employees at Bosch,
Hallaba said he believes BlueCross BlueShield is removing MEDcare from its provider network to aid Doctors Care, which lists more than 50 locations across
"It is hard for me to believe that doesn't have something to do with it," Hallaba said in an interview Friday.
According to Hallaba's email, MEDcare charges between 25 percent and 40 percent less than Doctors Care for similar services.
"In 2013 alone, MEDcare saved its patients close to
MEDcare guarantees that patients will be seen by board-certified physicians at its clinics, which are open 363 days a year from
"No other statewide urgent care comes close to this level of access and convenience," Hallaba said.
Hallaba is urging patients to sign an online petition calling for BlueCross BlueShield to keep MEDcare in its provider network. The petition had more than 700 signatures as of Saturday.
MEDcare executives met with BlueCross BlueShield officials last week, and Hallaba said they are scheduled to sit down Monday with
BlueCross BlueShield officials don't expect to change their minds, Embry-Tautenhan said.
"We are committed to moving forward with this decision," she said.
Embry-Tautenhan also emphasized that the BlueCross BlueShield network will continue to have a number of urgent-care providers, including Doctors Care clinics, hospital-based centers and retail-based options such as
"Members still have significant choice among urgent-care providers," she said.
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