Statement to the News Media - Physician Payment Changes

Oct 14, 1999, 01:00 ET from Regence BlueShield

    LEWISTON, Idaho, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement is issued
 on behalf of John Ruch, President and Chief Executive Officer of Regence
 BlueShield of Idaho, in response to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a small group
 of specialty physicians who are opposed to the company's shift to a more
 balanced payment system for Idaho doctors:
     -- Suing to protect higher physician fees is not in the patient's best
        interest, as this small group of doctors claim.
     -- This lawsuit is frivolous, filled with disingenuous information and
        inaccuracies.  We plan a vigorous fight because our customers deserve
        the best protection we can provide.
     -- We shifted to a more balanced payment system so that we could improve
        payments for direct patient care services, and improve the environment
        for primary care physicians, including pediatricians and family doctors
        to practice in Idaho.  We continually strive to find ways to increase
        access for our members and control health care costs.
     -- The new payments are still well above the regional averages and
        represent a re-distribution, not a decrease in overall physician
        payments.  Idaho specialty physicians are still being paid up to
        50% more than the regional average on most procedures.
     -- The payment system is used by the U.S. government agency (Health Care
        Financing Administration) charged with administering Medicare.  This
        system is nationally recognized and widely accepted as a consistent and
        fair approach to reimbursing physicians and other providers.  In fact,
        most doctors in Idaho have been accepting this method of reimbursement
        for their Medicare patients for years.
     -- Of the over 2,600 doctors in our network, 95% have accepted the new
        payment system, and our nearly 330,000 members appreciate the support
        and commitment these doctors have shown.
     -- We've been discussing with physicians for over 2 years ways to meet
        their request for a consistent and understandable fee schedule.  We
        followed that with substantial notice of the change, and even delayed
        implementation for more than 2 months at their request.  We have acted
        consistently with our contractual obligation and business practice to
        update and modify physician fees.

SOURCE Regence BlueShield