- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A contract between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and Catholic Health Initiatives’ UniNet has expired, and officials for both said Monday that no negotiations have been scheduled.

As of Monday, the thousands of Nebraskan Blue Cross policyholders who might seek treatment from doctors or at hospitals in Nebraska associated with the CHI Health network will have to pay more. Blue Cross spokesman Andy Williams provided an example:

A standard charge for a physical exam is $144. For someone who has already met his or her deductible, Blue Cross would pay an in-network doctor $133.81. But Blue Cross would pay only $88.48 for an out-of-network doctor. The patient would be responsible for the rest.

“In network we pay the provider directly,” Williams said. “Out of network we pay the member directly.”

CHI Health’s Mercy hospitals in Council Bluffs and Corning, Iowa, will not be directly affected by the contract’s expiration because they still have contracts with Wellmark, which is the Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate in Iowa, Williams said. Nebraska Blue Cross customers could seek treatment with Wellmark-contracted physicians and at the two hospitals and pay in-network fees, he said.

But Iowa residents with Blue Cross policies who seek treatment in Nebraska will have to pay out-of-network fees.

UniNet represents CHI Health facilities across Nebraska and a group of doctors in the Omaha area, and Blue Cross Blue Shield insures more 235,000 people in Nebraska, officials said.

UniNet and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska officials had negotiated two or three times a week leading up to the contract expiration at midnight Sunday, Williams said.

Blue Cross has said CHI Health, which used to be called Alegent Creighton Health, routinely charges 10 to 30 percent more than other Omaha hospitals. CHI Health has said those figures are misleading and that it believes its total cost of treatment is lower even if certain services cost more.

Blue Cross and CHI Health have set up websites offering their views on the negotiations.

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