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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023

Physical Therapists Protest Anthem Blue Cross Payment Decrease

A group of physical therapy providers protested on Feb. 23 outside the Woodland Hills headquarters of Anthem Blue Cross to demand the subsidiary of for-profit health insurance company, WellPoint, reverse its decision to decrease payments for services by 30 percent. A spokesman for the 35 to 40 protesters said the move comes after a decade of no increases in payments for services provided to Anthem’s subscribers by physical therapists. “I don’t know if we’re a test case,” said Joel Scherr, who owns a physical therapy practice with three offices in Los Angeles and one in Burbank. “But I do know that they would rather take us on than doctors.” Anthem Blue Cross released a written statement. In their written statement Anthem said they made “adjustments to [their] physical therapy requirements to standardize the pricing structure and continue to help contain escalating health care costs.” “Under the new structure if the amount paid to the [physical] therapist is reduced then the member will experience a corresponding decrease in their out of pocket expense.” In their statement Anthem addressed the co-pay as reduced but did not initially address who would pay for the remaining balance beyond the co-pay, the physical therapist or the member. “If the provider continues to charge the difference it may be on a case by case basis. It will be up to the provider to address it,” Peggy Hintz, public relations director, said. According to Scherr and other protesters, Anthem has demanded physical therapy providers agree to a flat fee of $75 per treatment or face minimal compensation in the range of $25 per treatment with no contract. “They’re decreasing payments to us at the same time they’re decreasing services to patients and increasing their premiums,” Sherr said. “They want us to sign this bad contract or get paid $25 per visit, which means patients will either have to pay a lot more out of pocket or not get the services they need.” Recently, WellPoint, which is based in Indiana, announced it would be raising individual subscribers’ rates by as much as 40 percent to compensate for what the company said is the fact that there are more unhealthy people in its patient pool because healthier people have dropped their plans during the recession. The protests come at a time when the insurer is already under scrutiny both nationally and by state insurance commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner. The physical therapists’ protest happened the same day Poizner’s office released results of an investigation into Anthem’s claims-handling practices. The insurance commissioner found more than 700 alleged violations of state law, including alleged failure to pay claims in a timely manner and alleged misleading of customers.

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