It appears the first salvo has been fired this past week in negotiations that have begun on a new contract between Anthem Inc. and Parkview Health System.

Parkview and Anthem are in “good faith contract negotiations,” and with their initial proposal, Anthem recently gave Parkview notice of its intention to terminate its contract effective April 29 if talks bog down, according to David Jeans, Parkview Health senior vice president of payor, employer and health plan strategies. Jeans made his comments in a note to local insurance representatives this past week.

“During this notice period through April 29, your employers covered by Anthem will still have in-network access to Parkview physicians, hospitals and facilities. If we are unable to reach a new agreement before then, all Parkview hospitals, facilities and employed physicians will be out of Anthem’s network,” Jeans said.

The not-for-profit Parkview Health System, founded in 1878 with Fort Wayne City Hospital, is a network of more than 80 community hospitals and clinics in northern Indiana and northwest Ohio, and includes the Parkview Physicians Group, which has a location in Bryan.

Anthem spokesperson Tony Felts confirmed Anthem’s stance and termed it standard discussion that comes out early in the process of negotiations.

Felts said he was unable to reveal terms of the current Anthem/Parkview contract, but said it covers the overall range of health insurance plans, including Medicare.

Late Friday, Jessica Foor, communications director for Parkview Health, issued a statement in response to questions from The Bryan Times about how this affects Williams County, saying “Parkview Physicians Group Ohio has had a longstanding relationship with Anthem,” and added, “Our existing contract does not have a specific end date.”

Mike Kurivial, employee benefits consultant for First Insurance Group, said he didn’t know how many Williams County residents are potentially affected, “but Anthem is definitely a big player in the industry in Ohio,” he said Friday.

Kurivial said in his experience, both sides generally begin making statements during a contract negotiation period.

“And from my experience, these (negotiations) usually go right down to the wire until anything happens. They either approve a new contract at the very last minute, or they can extend an old contract until a new one can be worked out,” Kurivial said.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Anthem, Inc., serves more than 78 million people, including more than 41 million within its family of health plans, and ranks 33rd on the Fortune 500. It is the largest for-profit managed health care company in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

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