Now almost into the third week since the August 1 deadline passed, effectively excluding the three East End hospitals from the Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage network and preventing East End residents from being covered when using their local area hospitals, both camps have grown quiet. The East End Health Alliance — comprised of Southampton Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center and Eastern Long Island Hospital – has been at odds with health insurance provider Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield during the contract renegotiations over the rate of reimbursement that Empire gives for patient procedures.
Over the past weeks both Empire and the Alliance have been vocal in their displeasure with the other side. Congressman Tim Bishop, who came out on the side of the alliance, said “no reasonable person can describe Empire BCBS’s posture here as negotiating in good faith” at a July 20 press conference. While Jill Hummel, Vice President of Health Services for Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, in an August 5 interview, called the Alliance “unconcerned” with their patients welfare before the August 1 deadline.
Accusations of lying and profit-mongering have been leveled on both sides, and negotiations looked for a while at a standstill. As late as August 5 Alliance Spokesperson Paul Connor III said that he was “not optimistic” about reaching a compromise with Empire anytime soon.
But what a difference a week makes, as an agreement between both parties looks more likely than ever. Last week both camps voluntarily agreed to an indefinite “quiet period” where they both agreed to put a halt to all press conferences and statements. An Empire spokesperson said the “quiet period” is meant to put an end to the bickering on both sides so the renegotiation process could go on unmolested.
Connor, wishing to respect the “quiet period”, refused to comment about the contract negotiation except to say that, “There has been a lot of discussion and negations with Blue Cross…some progress, I am more optimistic than I have been.”