Land of Lincoln drops University of Chicago Medical Center
Land of Lincoln Health, a struggling Chicago health insurer, will drop the University of Chicago’s medical center and affiliated doctors from its insurance network March 1, an unexpected change that has upset some customers.
The move comes after some customers bought coverage at the end of last year from Land of Lincoln because their University of Chicago doctors were in the network at the time. Members who want to keep their U. of C. physicians anyway will face higher out-of-pocket costs with Land of Lincoln.
Cheryl Mostowski of Algonquin accused Land of Lincoln of false advertising. She found out about the change when she saw her physician Jan. 7, a few weeks after she bought a Land of Lincoln policy.
“I burst into tears,” said Mostowski, 61, who sees specialists at the University of Chicago to treat her autoimmune disease. “They shouldn’t be allowed to bait and switch.”
Land of Lincoln notified University of Chicago Medicine of the decision late last month, said Ashley Heher, a spokeswoman at the health system. The decision affects Land of Lincoln’s individual policies and some small-group plans. Open enrollment for individuals and families under the Affordable Care Act began Nov. 1. The deadline to buy coverage that started on the first of the year was Dec. 18.
In an emailed statement to the Tribune, Land of Lincoln said the company “is proud to have one of the largest provider networks in the state. As with other insurance carriers, LLH reviews and adjusts its networks based on market changes to ensure our ability to provide members with access to affordable health insurance.”
Dennis O’Sullivan, a company spokesman, declined to elaborate on the decision to drop University of Chicago Medicine and why it came after open enrollment had started. He said he is not aware of other changes to the insurer’s network.
He did not know how many of its members see doctors affiliated with University of Chicago.
“We certainly understand any frustration and want to help our members ensure they have adequate coverage for their needs,” he said.
The insurer’s statement said members undergoing treatment may qualify for an extension of in-network coverage and are encouraged to contact the company to review their options.
The network change comes amid a lot of questions about the future of Land of Lincoln and other federally funded insurance companies created under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
About half of the 23 carriers, known as Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, or “co-ops,” have collapsed. The nonprofit health plans were envisioned as a way to provide more competition, greater consumer choice and better coverage in states typically dominated by large commercial insurance companies.
Land of Lincoln and other surviving co-ops are struggling to deal with the loss of financial aid that was promised by the government to ease risks in the law’s new competitive marketplaces for people who can’t buy employer-sponsored insurance.
The Illinois insurer has frozen enrollment in 2016 to help control costs and preserve capital. Land of Lincoln had about 54,000 members in 2015 and expects to end this year with 60,000 to 70,000.
Mostowski said she had to find new insurance after Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois dropped her last year. She didn’t have many insurance alternatives in the Illinois marketplace that included University of Chicago Medicine in their networks. Academic medical centers tend to be more expensive than other hospitals because they treat more medically complex conditions and also do research.
Mostowski said she chose Land of Lincoln over a competitor because of its lower premium. She pays $665 a month, including a subsidy. She doesn’t want to find new doctors and has already applied for patient financial aid from University of Chicago Medicine.
“I have no idea how much it will cost to see my doctors when they are out of network,” she said.
For individuals looking for alternate options, there aren’t many available.
Harken Health and CoventryOne are the only available insurance companies currently listed as part of the University of Chicago’s network. Land of Lincoln members affected by this only have until January 1st to change plans until open enrollment, leaving members little time to make a change.
Harken Health is only available to individuals living in Cook County, leaving CoventryOne the only option for individuals residing outside of Cook County that want to enroll in an individual health plan participating in the University of Chicago network. CoventryOne is owned by Aetna, which ironically does not include University of Chicago in any of their individual plans while ConventryOne uses its’ own PPO network that includes University of Chicago in the Coventry PPO plan network.
University of Chicago – Contracted Health Insurance Exchange Plans
|Insurance Company||Product Name||Network Status||Plan Type|
|Harken Health||Care Bronze||In-Network Tier 2||PPO|
|Harken Health||Care Silver I||In-Network Tier 2||PPO|
|Harken Health||Care Silver II||In-Network Tier 2||PPO|
|Harken Health||Care Gold I||In-Network Tier 2||PPO|
|Harken Health||Care Gold II||In-Network Tier 2||PPO|