ROCKFORD – U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos slammed Mercyhealth CEO Javon Bea on Friday for "putting profits ahead of people" following the health system’s announcement this week that it will no longer accept insurance from certain Medicaid patients beginning July 21.
The decision will have a profound impact on more than 66,000 patients in the Rockford area whose insurance coverage will no longer be accepted, said Bustos, D-East Moline.
"Mercyhealth's decision to refuse some Medicaid patients’ insurance would be deeply disappointing in the best of times, but in the midst of a pandemic it is unconscionable," she said.
"While I support any hospital’s right to negotiate better reimbursement rates, threatening to not accept these Medicaid patients’ insurance during a national public health crisis – all to increase payment – is irresponsible and recklessly puts people at risk," Bustos said. "Mercyhealth’s mission statement may claim their values are centered around healing, but today they are choosing harm."
The health system announced Wednesday that it will no longer accept patients who subscribe to IlliniCare, Meridian and Molina Medicaid managed care organizations starting on July 21 and Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicaid on Oct. 22.
The health system will continue to accept Medicaid patients who are assigned as subscribers tied directly to the state’s Medicaid program.
Mercyhealth is Illinois’ largest Medicaid provider, in terms of revenue, outside of the Chicago-Cook County region. Mercyhealth’s Medicaid reimbursements fall more than $30 million a year short of covering the actual cost of care provided, said Kim Scaccia, vice president of revenue cycle management, in a statement on Wednesday.
Those losses are separate from losses the health system faces because of COVID-19, she said.
"We are proud of the fact Mercyhealth has accepted these MCO insurance companies’ subscribers at our hospitals, and physicians’ offices for many years," Scaccia said, referring to managed care organizations.
"We have worked in good faith for several weeks with IlliniCare, Meridian and the other MCOs in an effort to renegotiate contract language that includes acceptable provisions," she said. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach agreement with them."
Bea that Bustos did not offer to help the Mercyhealth when he talked with the Congresswoman on Thursday, according to a statement that the health system issued Friday evening.
"I grew up in Rockford and this is very personal to me," Bea said. "I have worked on this issue for many months trying to get reimbursement for the complex services we are providing with no successful outcome. The lack of funding has forced us to make this very tough decision."
Mercyhealth is telling its patients who are IlliniCare, Meridian, Molina and BCBS-Medicaid subscribers to direct questions to Illinois Client Enrollment Services at 877-912-8880.
Bustos said she hopes the health system reverses course.
"Our front-line health care workers, doctors and nurses are working tirelessly to help the sick and keep us all safe and healthy – and Mercyhealth’s CEO should learn from their example, Bustos said." I hope that (Bea) will reconsider this decision and choose to once again put patients first."
Isaac Guerrero: email@example.com; @isaac_rrs