NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Jon Mitchell is weighing in on the recent news of a possible end to the partnership between SouthCoast Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, Blue Cross Blue Shield issued a memo stating SouthCoast Health intends to terminate its contract with the insurance company unless it agrees to rate increases of 30-percent over the next four years.

Thousands of patients across the SouthCoast could be left without a local healthcare provider and doctors that will accept their insurance of the issue is left unresolved by the end of the year. The insurance company says Southcoast Health stated that it intends to leave the insurance company's network as of January 1, 2020.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell discussed the stalemate Wednesday during his weekly appearance on the Barry Richard Show. Mayor Mitchell expressed his concern of the possible effects the move may have on the City budget and the City covered by Blue Cross.

“If their costs go up than that means our healthcare costs in the budget will go up. We’re keeping an eye on that as well. We want to make sure that, and we’ve asked Blue Cross this, that if there’s any disruption of service they need to take steps to ensure people know where they need to go for medical care,” Mayor Mitchell said.

“SouthCoast Health is headquartered in New Bedford, its flagship hospital is in New Bedford, and as a business, I’m concerned on what it would mean for their bottom line. So, what I’ve said is, ‘Look, if I can be helpful I’ll be helpful. If there’s a way for me to mediate at all I’ll certainly do that.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield also provided a list for customers of alternative hospitals if the breakup occurs, including Boston Children’s Hospital at North Dartmouth, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Plymouth, Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Steward Morton Hospital in Taunton, Steward Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, and Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro,

“We are asking for fair and equitable reimbursement from Blue Cross Blue Shield MA, with incremental increases over the multiyear life of the contracts, so that we can continue to invest in the world-class clinical care and services we provide our patients and communities, close to home,” Southcoast Health in a statement.

“For comparison, based on publicly-available data from the Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis, Cape Cod receives 64 percent higher reimbursement than we do. Beyond our region, North Shore Medical receives 18 percent more, Baystate Medical receives 21 percent more and South Shore Hospital receives 17 percent more. The numbers show that BCBSMA is not returning local funds proportionally to the South Coast region, which is why we are taking a firm, definitive stand on this important issue.”

Mayor Mitchell says he ultimately would not want to switch insurance providers for the City, but if the breakup occurs it may force his hand.

“We wouldn’t leave Blue Cross abruptly, but in the long run if Blue Cross isn’t doing business with the primary source of medical care in the region then we have to think twice about if Blue Cross Blue Shield should be covering City employees,” said Mayor Mitchell.

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