A sign the any-willing-provider era is upon Arkansas, the state's largest insurer has announced that as of Oct. 1 it will cut reimbursements by 10% to doctors treating patients in some plans.
"As a result of the implementation of the Arkansas AWP law, we believe that costs will rise, necessitating changes in . . . provider allowances," Mike Brown, a senior vice president with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said in a letter to providers.
Previous to the any-willing-provider law, non-network healthcare providers received more money from the Blues for treating patients because they did not benefit from managed-care savings. But now the Blues' two plans -- network and non-network -- are being merged into one new plan. The 10% cut brings rates for non-network treatment down to the same level as network providers receive.
While patients won't take a financial hit, they may see a decrease in the quality of care, some providers say. Doctors would be forced to treat more patients to make up for costs rising faster than insurers' reimbursements.
"You would have to jam in more people in less time and more hurriedly accomplish and cheapen your treatment," said Laurence Connelley, M.D., a Little Rock podiatrist in the Blues network. "It would just make a more rushed, pushed atmosphere in your medical-care offices."
Hospitals will take a hit as well, some say. Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville would see a "dramatic negative impact on our hospital," spokesman Linda Wagner said in an e-mail.
The any-willing-provider law may weaken the Blues' clutch on the Arkansas insurance market, said Glen Mays, a professor with the College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, because providers have fewer reasons to stick with the insurer after a rate cut.