Effective August 21, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes will no longer be in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s (Blue Cross NC) network. The 90-day period gives customers time to find new, in-network doctors and reschedule any planned procedures.
LifeBrite took ownership of the Danbury hospital on January 31, 2017, acquiring it in a bankruptcy proceeding previously owned by Pioneer Health Services.
Blue Cross stated in legal claims filed on May 16 that LifeBrite has engaged in a fraudulent scheme to enrich itself at Blue Cross NC’s expense by billing for laboratory services that were not payable, were fraudulent, were in violation of Blue Cross NC’s contract with LifeBrite, and were otherwise unlawful.
LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes spokeswoman Sarah Mann said she disagreed with the decision.
“It appears that Blue Cross has failed to take into account the role LifeBrite plays in providing high-quality health care to residents of Stokes and surrounding areas. We believe the decision reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about who we are and how we do business, and we are confident that our billing practices are lawful, appropriate and consistent with LifeBrite’s contract with BCBS of North Carolina. We intend to work with BCBS of North Carolina to address any issues in the hopes of continuing our relationship so we can keep providing vitally needed healthcare services to our community.”
Mann added, “Across the U.S., healthcare providers and patients in rural areas like Stokes County face a host of issues – namely, access to quality medical care. When LifeBrite stepped in to manage the Community Hospital of Stokes, we did so in part to ensure Stokes County residents had easy access to the care they needed – access we will continue to provide for the foreseeable future. We strongly believe these issues will be resolved in due course.”
Blue Cross announced on Thursday customers can expect to receive mailed information about the end of the contract with LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, as well as information about alternate facilities where they can receive care.
According to a written statement by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, physicians at LifeBrite also work at other nearby hospitals and customers may be able to continue seeing the same doctor at a different location. Customers with questions are encouraged to call the number on the back of their membership ID cards.
“Nothing is more important to Blue Cross NC than making sure our customers have access to high-quality, affordable health care,” said Blue Cross NC Vice President of Provider Networks Mark Werner. “We will work with our customers during this transition to make sure they can get the quality care they need from other nearby in-network hospitals.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.