Appalachian Regional Healthcare asks federal judge to make managed-care firm keep it under contract

Appalachian Regional Healthcare, a hospital chain in Eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, is seeking an emergency injunction by a federal judge ordering Coventry Cares to let its Kentucky members continue receiving services from the hospitals, and to avoid widespread layoffs the chain says will happen if the judge doesn’t intervene, reports Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Coventry Cares is one of three state-approved companies to provide managed care services through Medicaid. It said it would cancel its ARH contract after Friday, which would affect about 25,000 Medicaid recipients.

With a few exceptions, Coventry members would lose access to treatment or have to travel long distances to get to other facilities approved by the company, which ARH and officials in affected counties say would be difficult for most because they don’t have money or reliable transportation to make the trip. Coventry spokesman Matthew Eyles said the company would continue paying for some services at ARH hospitals, including ob-gyn services to women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant and have a relationship with an ARH doctor.

The state switched to managed-care last year as a way to save money, but as Estep reports, the move has been “rocky.” Providers have complained about delayed payments from the companies and their cumbersome pre-approval processes for treatments. ARH sued Coventry and Kentucky Spirit, another provider, claiming the companies owed more than $18 million for services ARH had provided.  Estep notes, “The state allowed another managed care provider not to include ARH in its network, which meant a lot of higher-risk, higher-cost patients ended up covered by Coventry, the company said.” The company also said the state failed to implement a method to assess risks that would adequately compensate managed-care providers who have more high-risk patients.”

ARH and its Coventry patients think the company is trying to get more money out of the state. Many of ARH’s patients are covered by Coventry, and ARH spokeswoman said about 300 to 400 jobs would be cut if Coventry cancels its contract. State officials are encouraging continues negotiation between ARH and Coventry. (Read more)

Meanwhile, Bardstown pediatrician and Passport Health Plan board member James Hendrick wrote a letter to the editor of The Courier-Journal offering Passport’s services to “help the state get Medicaid back on track.” He said he’s been very impressed with the nonprofit’s “strong and engaged provider network, and an intense focus on delivering services at a cost that doesn’t diminish quality,” adding that because Passport is a nonprofit, it’s not concerned with appeasing shareholders. Passport has been managing Medicaid in the Louisville region for several years.

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