ctnewsjunkie file photo
Aetna building in Hartford (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — In contrast to its inability to reach a deal with Anthem, Hartford Healthcare announced Tuesday that it has reached a deal with Aetna, three months before the expiration of the current contract.

The new contract covers all Aetna members in commercial, employer-based healthcare and Aetna Medicare Advantage plans. Hartford Healthcare owns the five hospitals whose services are being negotiated in the agreement, including Hartford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center, Backus Hospital, and Windham Hospital. The contract also includes about 2,000 physicians and medical professionals.

“Our ability to come together with Aetna and agree on this contract a full three months before the existing agreement’s expiration date eliminates confusion and unnecessary disruption for our patients, providers, and the communities we serve,” said Dr. James Cardon, executive vice president and chief clinical integration officer for Hartford HealthCare.

In its negotiations with Anthem, Hartford Healthcare can’t seem to reach an agreement.

Anthem said Monday in a statement that when it became evident they might not reach a deal by Oct. 1, they asked Hartford Healthcare whether it would be willing to extend the agreement to avoid disruption.

Shawn Mawhiney, a spokesman for Hartford Healthcare, said it has already been negotiating with Anthem for nearly one year at that point, which is “ample time to reach an agreement.”

He said the offer of an extension is “disingenuous.”

Anthem said without an extension, HHC is out of network and that’s why it’s doing everything it can to ensure that “our members have the right clinical plans in place so that services in process are not interrupted and that, as appropriate, care can be safely and effectively transitioned to other providers.”

Mawhiney said Anthem itself announced HHC was out of its network even before our contract expired.

“Given how far apart we are in negotiations, an ‘extension’ at this point would just add more confusion to patients and caregivers, and provide false hope,” Mawhiney said Tuesday.

Anthem maintained that it’s still working hard to reach a fair agreement with HHC that is “truly reflective of the increasing costs of providing care, rather than one containing three consecutive years of increases that are two to three times the rate of inflation.”

Mawhiney said in the meantime they are concerned about making sure those patients who really need care continue to receive it.

To date, about 550 patients have applied for Continuation of Care benefits. These are patients who are currently receiving care, such as a cancer patient in the midst of a series of chemotherapy treatments that was told by Anthem that she needed to find a new doctor; as well as patients who have longstanding relationships with Hartford HealthCare physicians, programs and services and don’t want to lose these relationships or have to drive long distances to receive the high level of care that Hartford HealthCare is able to provide.

“Anthem has acted on only a small percentage of these, and Anthem acknowledged in our meeting Monday their process was putting patients in the middle, but they did not commit to any modifications that would ultimately benefit patients,” Mawhiney said.

There are an estimated 60,000 patients using the Hartford Healthcare system with Anthem insurance plans. At least 50,000 of those are state employees and their dependents.

“I understand that contract negotiations like these have become increasingly complicated over the years — exacerbated by a volatile and uncertain health care landscape,” state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who administers the state plan, said Monday.

However, a lapse in the contract that would disrupt care and could have “financially devastating consequences for all of us who are caught in the middle of your dispute is unnecessary and unacceptable.”

Lembo said his office has been told by HHC that “state members may indeed experience disruption and financial impact this time if they are unable to resolve their contract dispute with Anthem by Oct.1.”