Potential Unexpected Changes Looming for University Health Care

By Lisa Powers and Geoff Rushton, Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK – The University was notified this week that Highmark Blue Shield has not reached agreement with the Geisinger Medical Center and its physicians to continue as providers within the Highmark PPOBlue network after Dec. 31, 2010. Highmark is Penn State’s health plan administrator. These negotiations are a normal part of such agreements.

With the current agreement due to expire at the end of December, Highmark is required by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to notify its members of the potential of a network provider discontinuing its network participation. Termination of the contract is not always the actual result, but these regulations are meant to allow time for patients to find other services if needed. Over the next few days, all Highmark customers across the state, including Penn State employees, who currently seek services from Geisinger will receive the required notification letter.

“Affordable health care coverage and broad access to care is something at Penn State that has always been a central part of our employee benefits program,” said Al Horvath, Penn State’s senior vice president for finance and business. “We understand the urgency of this issue and the concern this may cause some individuals. This is an unfortunate situation and we hope it will be resolved soon.”

In addition, Penn State will be notifying affected employees via a letter to help them better understand the situation and act accordingly. University leaders plan to continue working closely with Highmark and will keep faculty and staff up-to-date on the issue.

“Anyone with specific questions right now should feel free to call Highmark at 1-800-914-4384,” said Robin Oswald, Penn State employee benefits manager. “Our benefits specialists here at Penn State also will assist and respond to the needs of our employees. We are hopeful that Highmark and Geisinger will come to a swift renewal of their contract so that Penn State employees won’t experience an interruption in the benefits they currently enjoy.”

Employees with questions also can send an e-mail to benefits@psu.edu.

As negotiations move forward, the University will keep faculty and staff informed of Highmark’s progress.

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