Tulsa's Hillcrest At Odds With Community Care

Monday, February 9th 2009, 5:42 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- More than 20,000 people will have to find new doctors, if a Tulsa hospital doesn't settle a dispute with an Oklahoma insurance provider.  Hillcrest Medical Center is warning their patients that their doctors won't take Community Care or Preferred Community Choice Insurance if they don't reach an agreement by March 1.

Dr. Steven Langarten is worried about the future care of his patients.  Many of them may have to find a new doctor if his hospital, Hillcrest, stops taking Community Care and Preferred Community Choice Insurance.

"But each patient that needs to change from this doctor to that doctor just because of the change in a business relationship, there is the danger that information about that patient gets lost. Treatment gets delayed. Tests have to be repeated. We are putting patients at risk when they have to change doctors," said Dr. Steven Langarten.

Hillcrest took out a double full-page ad in the Tulsa World telling people to switch health plans now if they want to keep their primary care physicians and specialists.  A Hillcrest spokesperson says negotiations are getting nowhere and they felt it was time the public knew the severity of the situation.

"It's the 9th of February and the pending termination date is at the end of this month. So, there is not a whole lot of time left," said Stephanie Gibson with Hillcrest.

Gibson says Community Care is asking the hospital to take a substantially lower amount of money for hospital reimbursements.  She says it's in the realm of a double digit decrease.

"Given the state of the economy right now, the rising cost of healthcare overall in this industry, that is really just something that is not only unacceptable to Hillcrest as a whole, but it's also just an unreasonable request" said Stephanie Gibson with Hillcrest.

But, in a statement, Community Care says they have offered significant increases in payments to Hillcrest's physicians.  They say the issue is with hospital reimbursements, stating Hillcrest has placed a higher priority for itself and its profits for its owners than on physician reimbursements.        

The statement goes on to say that Hillcrest is their highest cost provider in Tulsa and accepting their demands will result in higher premiums for their customers.

It should be noted that Community Care Insurance is owned by Hillcrest's competitors, Saint John and Saint Francis.