Provider Perspective

March 28, 2024

Interview with Melissa Keller

Behavioral Health Clinician

Dr. Albert Chaffin

As a provider and health care advocate in this community, what are your concerns about the potential contract termination between Legacy Health and Regence?

I worry that our vulnerable patients are not going to get the needed support they’ve come to expect from our providers. I’m also concerned about the length of time it will take for them to access the support in the community, particularly mental health services or specialty care, and that’s going to leave our patients without the care they need for their well-being.

What concerns do you have for our patients who are caught in the middle of this situation?

Regence members will be wait-listed for mental health providers. They’re not going to get interim support while they are waiting, which a lot of them have come to rely on as they try to figure out where to go for help. They are also in a weird situation where they might be seeking help and not knowing whether I can provide that help. How do they manage that?

If an agreement is not reached and our contract is terminated, how will this affect Legacy patients who are Regence members? How will it impact you as a provider?

As a mental health provider, I’m going to be sad knowing that my patients that I have worked with and they have done a lot of good work, might have some major setbacks if they’re forced to either stop receiving care or to find another provider who doesn’t have the history with them.

What are you telling patients who have questions about this situation?

I tell them I know Legacy is working to resolve the issues. They are aware the negotiations impact a significant number of patients who are getting good care here. My hope is that Regence will also be mindful that ending this contract has real consequences to real human beings who need support from Legacy’s providers.

How are you helping patients plan for a possible contract termination?

I’m helping them seek support in the community, to get on wait lists for mental health services, when appropriate, and reminding them that they’re probably going to have to find a medical provider as well. It’s difficult for patients to be placed in this space of not knowing.

How are contract disputes like this impacting health care throughout this country?

I know negotiations are not unique to Legacy and Regence. Contract negotiations are occurring across the country, and it impacts so many people. Providers, who are trying to give the best care to their clients, are unfortunately having to focus on insurance, which takes away from our care giving. We’re here to provide care, not to fight over finances.

If you could tell the head of Regence one thing, what would it be?

To remember their insured clients are real people, and they are the ones who are being impacted most by this decision. They need their providers who they’ve built these meaningful relationships with over the years. Feeling safe with your doctor and the people providing your care is critical for patients. If they lose that sense of relationship, they may not get the help that they need.

What would you ask of Regence as the date of termination draws closer?

Remember patients are real humans with complex needs and decisions that they make have consequences. I want them to realize that a patient’s health and wellbeing is hopefully more important than the bottom line.

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