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450,000 North Texans could lose in-network coverage as Blue Cross contract negotiations continue


Blue Cross Blue Shield says UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources are pushing to raise prices.

A contract dispute between two North Texas hospital systems and the state’s largest health insurer could leave hundreds of thousands of people without coverage.

UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources have two weeks to make a deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas or more than 450,000 North Texans could see their health care costs soar, according to the insurer.

The current contracts between the two hospital systems and Blue Cross expire Oct. 4 for most products, including the Blue Choice PPO and Medicare Advantage PPO plans, the insurer’s website says. If a new deal isn’t reached by then, UT Southwestern and Texas Health would no longer be part of most Blue Cross networks.

That could mean higher out-of-pocket costs and new charges for things that aren't covered under a patient’s policy, according to Dr. Mark Chassay, Chief Medical Director for BCBS of Texas.

In a video posted to the Blue Cross website, Chassay said the insurer is trying to stifle rising medical costs in response to pressure from employers and members. A Blue Cross representative told the Dallas Morning News UT Southwestern and Texas Health are pushing to raise health care prices over the next 32 months.

“It's important to stand up for affordable care and try to stem rising costs at a time when our customers and members are facing inflationary and recessionary pressures,” Chassay said in the video. “All of us are paying more for everything from the gas pumps to the grocery stores.” 

Many North Texans will have few options if a deal isn’t reached. The alliance of the two hospital systems, Southwestern Health, is the largest provider network in North Texas, coordinating care for more than 730,000 patients in a 16-county area.

Chassay said if a deal is not reached by the Oct. 4 deadline, Blue Cross will work with its members to find another in-network health care provider. 

UT Southwestern and Texas Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rebekah Morr is KERA's All Things Considered newscaster and producer. She came to KERA from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a news assistant at Weekend All Things Considered.