Originally created 07/01/03

Hospital, Aetna plan to discuss insurance cost



Aetna Inc. and Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics part ways today but are not shutting the door on each other.

MCG Health Inc., the operating company for the hospital and clinics, chose not to renew a managed care contract with Aetna because officials said they felt the rate increase offered would not make up for money-losing terms it has endured since 1995, officials said. Aetna has said the offer was competitive with those offered to other Augusta hospitals that remain in Aetna's network.

MCG Health's contract expired today and it is an out-of-network hospital, which means the 10,000 members Aetna claims in the Augusta area can go there but will likely bear a higher burden of the cost.

The two sides, however, are still talking and appear willing to negotiate further, said MCG Health Chief Financial Officer Thomas Kelly Jr.

"Both parties are willing to give," Mr. Kelly said. "That's the only reason we're coming back to the table."

A conference call is planned for Thursday.

Aetna spokesman Walt Cherniak said he could not confirm the call but said Aetna is still interested in talks.

The discussion also could affect 360 MCG physicians, who contract separately with Aetna through Physicians Practice Group. That contract expires in September and the two sides have reached terms that could lead to a new agreement, said PPG President Curt Steinhart.

However, Aetna physicians have to have privileges at a network hospital and most MCG physicians do not have them outside MCG, so an agreement with the hospital and clinics would still be needed for the physicians to reach terms, Dr. Steinhart said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.



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