By Stevi Breshears:
Sept. 1, 2017, the entire state of Texas changed insurance providers from United Health Care to Blue Cross Blue Shield, causing all current and retired state employees – including those at Amarillo College – to experience a shift in coverage.
According to retired White Deer ISD teacher Alice Cox, policyholders were given two days to call and discuss their insurance options, but the phone lines were bogged down and nearly impossible to get through. As a result, policyholders were automatically placed on the new health plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
AC employees have been voicing concerns ever since the change took place. Many say their doctors will not accept the new insurance plan.
“We’ve always been proud of our health care, and it’s like someone flipped a switch and no one told us it was going to happen,” said Debbie Hall, MSN, RN, CSMRN and associate professor at AC.
Employees aren’t the only ones affected by the changes in coverage. Spouses and children covered by state employee policies are also suffering.
“We have encountered a real problem for AC families,” said Nathan Fryml, AC faculty senate secretary.
Fryml said that because of the coverage changes, parents are restricted on where they can take their children not only for regular doctor’s visits, but also emergency care.
AC employees have been writing letters to state representatives explaining the problem. Several also attended the Sept. 19 board of regents meeting to make sure the regents were aware of the issue. Dr. Paul Proffer, regents chair, replied by sending a letter to all employees assuring them that the board members are working to achieve a renegotiation of the plan.
“I have heard countless stories about families losing long-time primary care physicians, some life-saving specialists, and even the inability to take children to urgent care facilities. This is unacceptable,” Proffer wrote.
Employees also expressed their concerns at a town hall meeting with State Senator Kel Seliger on Sept. 21 at AC’s Downtown Campus. During the meeting, audience members said the reason many physicians aren’t accepting the insurance is that the coverage pays at a rate lower than that of Medicaid.
Seliger said that Blue Cross Blue Shield representatives are talking to physicians in the Amarillo area to reach an agreement.