Bruce Katz: Standoff between hospital, insurance company endangers my care

I have advanced mantle cell lymphoma and was near death when admitted to the emergency room at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The doctors performed tests, called in an oncologist and immediately ambulanced me to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where I was admitted and remained for weeks.

Because of the standing relationship between Johns Hopkins and AAMC, the latter assumed my care when I returned home, relieving a great source stress on my family. Anne Arundel Medical Center, in concert with my doctor from Johns Hopkins, provided my second cycle of chemotherapy and follow-up infusion visits.

Now, at this critical point in the treatment of my disease, my family is being threatened with a loss of health care at AAMC.

As someone who has spent most of the last two months in the hospital, I have no doubt that the quality of care at AAMC is superb. The hospital services provided by caring and knowledgeable nurses and technicians are nothing short of outstanding.

Dr. Ravin Garg, an oncologist and part of an AAMC practice, is a leader in the treatment of lymphoma and is on the faculty at Johns Hopkins. The Infusion Center, which supports the highly respected cancer center, demonstrates an elevated level of competence while displaying the kindness and empathy so needed by these patients. Anne Arundel Medical Center is a gem and a powerful resource within our community.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has been my health insurance provider for almost 40 years. When it learned of my disease, it contacted us, asking how it could make things easier, describing our coverage and assigning people to provide benefit support, expedite approval of procedures through an oncology care manager and cover all prescriptions. When you are in my condition, you have profound respect when an insurance company demonstrates support.

Anne Arundel Medical Center and CareFirst BCBS have currently failed to reach agreement on a new contract. The hospital announced that, effective at the end of the current contract, it will no longer accept health insurance claims for CareFirst BCBS.

For someone in my position, this decision is life-threatening. Am I to choose my hospital or my insurance carrier? The burden for solving this problem should not be on the patient.

For the good of our community, I call upon the leadership of AAMC and CareFirst BCBS to solve this problem.

I am just one person with one condition. How will other cancer patients be served? Who will meet the needs of cardiac patients? Anne Arundel Medical Center has wonderful services for childbirth and other specialties. This decision impacts thousands of all ages across the region.

I urge our political representatives to involve themselves in this issue, for the sake of those they serve.

Annapolis resident Bruce Katz is a retired educator.

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