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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018 1:00 am

City picks Parkview as health provider

Change from employees being able to pick Lutheran

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

City government employees' health insurance options will change with Parkview Health becoming the city's Exclusive Provider Organization beginning Jan. 1.

The city is switching from a “dual choice option” that allows employees to pick Lutheran Health Network or Parkview for health care services and have them covered by insurance, John Perlich, city spokesman, confirmed in an email Monday.

The move is expected to save the city $4.5 million annually, he said. 

Parkview's plan is called Signature Care and amounts to a self-insurance plan. City employees were informed of the change in a letter Monday. 

It remained unclear what governmental approvals the change to self-insurance would have to receive. 

A letter sent to employees said the city had been receiving higher-than-usual discounts than is usual with dual choice, but that came to an end with price increases in recent negotiations.

“(B)ased on the quotes we received, we can realize a larger discount by going exclusively with one network,” the letter says, adding Signature Care would offer “the least disruption of services” and has a network of preferred dental providers, the letter states.

However, employees will have to get used to other changes.

For one, they will no longer be able to use Walgreens pharmacies to fill prescriptions. Instead, the letter encourages them to use Good Rx to find a replacement pharmacy as well as lowest price on particular prescriptions.

Direct Imaging LLC also is now the preferred provider for imaging services, including magnetic resonance imaging, X-rays, CT scans and ultrasound, the letter says.

The letter states the company should prove less costly to employees on high-deductible plans because prices are much lower and can be known in advance.

And some employees will need to search for another doctor. The letter states that in most cases, doctors are part of both plans, but some are not.

“If you are currently receiving ongoing treatment for a serious health condition, there will be a transition process that will allow you to continue to receive care from your current provider until in-network providers can be coordinated for care,” the letter says.

Parkview Health's media representatives did not respond to a request for how the change will affect that health system.

Lutheran Health Network spokesman Geoff Thomas said calls were already being received from city employees who are unhappy with the plan.

“We are obviously disappointed, but are exploring options to allow city employees – including some who have already expressed their concerns to us – continued access to our services,” he said in an email statement.

“Lutheran Health Network remains focused on providing high-quality healthcare that, in some instances, is only available in northern Indiana at its facilities.”

Dr. John Crawford, president of Fort Wayne City Council, said he was unsure if the change must be approved by the council, but added if there is a contract, that would likely require approval.

“We encouraged them to bid it out,” he said of the insurance contract. “We know some of our employees are not going to be happy because they are going to have to switch doctors ... (but) there's always a trade-off,” he said.

Perlich said those with continuing medical conditions will be offered assistance in maintaining continuous care.

He said the change was made after a committee of city employees and benefits consultants reviewed bids and provided a recommendation to the city administration.

Meetings with employees in upcoming weeks will explain the new system before an open enrollment period.

rsalter@jg.net