Delisting of Texas Providers
The Patient Choice Coalition of Texas (PCCOT) has reported that in late fall of 2018, over 3,000 healthcare providers across the state of Texas began to receive threatening letters informing them that effective January 1, 2019, the targeted providers would no longer participate in certain network plans. The reason? These letters stated "because you frequently refer to providers who do not participate in [the network]".
"…because you frequently refer to providers who do not participate in [the network]"Aetna delisting letter.
If you are an Aetna plan member with out-of-network benefits in the State of Texas, you should be worried that your access to providers is being squeezed at all angles, this time, at point of referral.
Patient Rights Under Texas Law
In September of 2015, the Texas state legislature passed landmark protections of patients in accessing the healthcare providers they trust under their paid health plans. House Bill 574 codified in the Texas Insurance Code in chapters 1301 and 843 provided simple, yet effective safeguards to prohibit insurance companies to engage in retaliatory actions against healthcare providers when patients choose to use their out-of-network benefits.
Section 1301.0058 of the Texas Insurance Code is applicable here:
PROTECTED COMMUNICATIONS BY PREFERRED PROVIDERS.
(a) An insurer may not in any manner prohibit, attempt to prohibit, penalize, terminate, or otherwise restrict a preferred provider from communicating with an insured about the availability of out-of-network
providers for the provision of the insured's medical or health care services.
(b) An insurer may not terminate the contract of or otherwise penalize a preferred provider solely because the provider's patients use out-of-network providers for medical or health care services.
Since the letters went out in fall of 2018, some providers have reported receiving letters that rescinded the delisting altogether, but others received a follow-up letter stating that the delisting would only apply to self-funded plans. This position obviously being presented as a means to circumvent the legislative intent by suggesting that the Texas Insurance Code's protection of Texas citizens are preempted by Federal law. It is well established that ERISA and other Federal law does in fact preempt certain state law, but it is hard to believe that a court would allow these aggressive tactics by some insurance payers to go unchecked.
As of the publishing of this post, PCCOT has also reported some providers have been given a "reprieve" until April 1, 2019. The reason for the delay seems unclear, but patient advocates in this great state of Texas and around the country are hoping that these acts of intimidation and punishment of patients for accessing benefits that they already paid for is stifled.