New Shreveport insurance plan meets opposition from police and fire

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Much to the opposition of many participants, including police and fire unions, the City of Shreveport Health Care Trust Fund Board approved a series of changes to health care plans on Wednesday afternoon. insurance coverage that will make it more difficult to access doctors and services at Willis Knighton Medical Center.

Changes include a three-tier Preferred Supplier Organization (PPO) plan. It offers the lowest deductibles for health coverage in the Oschner, LSU, and Christus health systems. Potential patients for Willis Knighton would be required to pay a higher deductible on a second tier, and the third tier would allow out-of-network coverage at an even higher deductible rate.

Members of the public have complained that the tiered plan would make Willis Knighton unaffordable for many retirees. These retirees said they use Willis Knighton because the hospital has the best cancer and pathology specialists in the area, and added that most firefighters suffer from some type of cancer in their lifetime due to the products. chemicals and pollutants they inhale while fighting fires.

“Will anyone in this room going to any Willis Knighton facility please stand up,” Virginia Pinkley asked during the meeting’s public comment section, at which more than half the room stood. “These people on Medicare got these illnesses because of the jobs they got in the fire and police departments. Willis Knighton donated helicopters, ambulances, and land to firefighters, and that’s how they are treated ?

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Council officials at Wednesday’s meeting said the newly adopted plan would save the city nearly $2.7 million a year by making Blue Cross Blue Shield the city’s primary insurance provider. .

BCBS will provide a Medicare Advantage plan. Audience members said the plan does not provide services after discharge from hospital.

Representatives for Willis Knighton and Aetna said they could have matched BCBS’s rates if given the opportunity. The two companies said they had never received a tender offering their services.

“Willis Knighton and Blue Cross would have been on equal footing if that were the case,” said Willis Knighton CEO Jaf Fielder. “There was no fair and consistent process, and there should be no difference in how hospitals are paid.”

Members of the public threatened to challenge the council’s decision.

“Please make sure you make the right decisions because otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll have to answer these questions in a courtroom one day,” said retired firefighter Steve Pinkley.

Board member Bill Wilson agreed that a court filing would be imminent.

“We didn’t legally let other providers choose,” Wilson said. “I want to give Willis Knighton a fair chance to go.”

Throughout the meeting, members of the public complained that information displayed on the projector was unreadable, council members did not use microphones when speaking, and council members whispered their votes to avoid anger. public. During the vote on agenda items, Shreveport City Councilman Jerry Bowman, Jr. spoke at an inaudible decibel and held his hand over his mouth. He recused himself from the vote on the three-tier plan.

Only Wilson could be heard voting no to the three-tier plan during the vote. An official record of the vote was not provided upon request and the votes were not displayed on the presentation projector.

At one point, a security officer for Mayor Adrian Perkins took the public comment mic from the podium as a woman began to object to the ongoing vote.

“Listening to grown men battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses practically beg for this advice to keep their health care intact is both disrespectful and, quite frankly, heartless,” Gale Hope said. “These firefighters and police are risking their lives for us, spending countless hours away from their families and most working two or three jobs because they have to.

In other matters, the board voted to approve Medicare benefit plans, pharmacy savings, an increase in employee and retiree premiums, and BCBS vision and dental coverage.

Other members of the public at Wednesday’s board meeting included Shreveport mayoral candidates Tom Arceneaux, LeVette Fuller and Mario Chavez.

Shreveport City Council will need to approve the council decisions at a Sept. 13 meeting before they go into effect.

On Wednesday night, councilman Grayson Boucher said he would fight to keep the city under the insurance plan that keeps Willis Knighton at the top tier.

Read Boucher’s statement below:

“The Healthcare Trust Board’s vote is both disappointing and troubling. After weeks of questioning the process and numerous studies and investigations, by myself and others, I am convinced that there were major problems with the RFP process or there were none. . The largest health care provider in this area was not authorized to provide a true service offer, which skewed the final offer amounts. It wasn’t fair to anyone, especially city employees and taxpayers.

“As a councillor, I plan to propose that we stay on the same plan we were on in 2022 for the next calendar year. It’s the only right thing to do at this point. The next administration and the next council must work hard next year to provide adequate and responsible health care choices for 2024. Our employees, our retirees and our citizens deserve it.

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