Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Macon County Manager Derek Roland announced last week that it would cost the county at least $600,000 to replace the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina insurance network for the county’s 360 county employees. Because of the cost to switch providers, Macon County elected to stay with Blue Cross Blue Shield, even though as of Oct. 5, Mission Health Systems will no longer be considered “in-network” for those insured through BCBS. Angel Medical Center in Franklin is an affiliate of Mission Health.

The Town of Franklin, however, no longer uses Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina for the town’s 63 employees. While it wasn’t discussed at Monday night’s town board meeting, Town Manager Summer Woodard said on Tuesday morning that as of Oct. 1, employees were no longer insured by BCBS and instead will now be insured by the North Carolina League of Municipalities insurance, otherwise known as MedCost.

According to Woodard, the change will cost the town of Franklin $4,000 less than the annual plan they had with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

MedCost has been the health and dental claims administrator and health provider network for the N.C. League of Municipalities since 2011.

MedCost provides a large health care provider network including access to every hospital in the state of North Carolina and dozens of primary care and specialty care physicians. It also provides a claims platform that allows the Health Benefits Trust to offer several new plans, even to the smallest member groups. MedCost also provides online enrollment, billing allocated by departments, and enhanced reporting for members.

Several North Carolina cities and towns have been using MedCost – which is based in Winston-Salem – as an administrator for years.

Mission Health Systems, including Angel Medical Center in Franklin are considered “in network” for the town’s new insurance provider.

While BCBS insures 260,000 people in Western North Carolina, not all of those people utilize Mission Health Systems services, so the number of people actually impacted by Mission Health and BCBS’s failure to reach a contract agreement by Oct. 5 is unknown. About 20 percent of physicians practicing in WNC work for the system which has seven hospitals in the region. A number of other options are available for BCBS subscribers such as Duke Life Point, which operates Harris Regional Hospital and associated doctors.

It is important to note that all emergency care will always be considered in-network, regardless of insurance providers. So in the event of an emergency, and if someone is insured through BCBS, the closest emergency room will always be the best option, as emergency room care will be considered in-network, regardless of the contract negotiations after Oct. 5.

Consumers can search the Medcost website by their doctor’s name or by the name of the practice.

To learn more about MedCost Benefit Services visit www.mbstpa.com/Index.htm

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