"The open-enrollment period ends in a week, and I have been actively involved in these discussions on a daily basis and continue to encourage all parties to go back to the table to work out a compromise," Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Thursday. "We need to make sure West Virginia seniors can get the access to health services that they need. Too many seniors are caught in the middle of this dispute, and they certainly have the most to lose.
"This situation is unfortunate, and I'm hopeful that we can find a solution that protects seniors now and in the future so this doesn't happen again."
Rockefeller sent letters to top officials at Humana and CAMC on Oct. 31, asking them to resume negotiations and reach an agreement to cover patients before the open-enrollment period ends on Dec. 7.
If they sign up with one Medicare Advantage provider, Medicare recipients cannot change their providers for another year.
"We are again facing a situation where access to health services for West Virginia seniors may be seriously curtailed because of business decisions that seemingly put profits before patients," Rockefeller wrote.
Perry Bryant, executive director of Charleston-based West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said he recently talked to a woman insured by Humana who "needs to see doctors at CAMC.
"She was thinking about changing insurance providers so she could get the access she needs," he said. "When these institutions can't find middle ground, can't find any way to resolve this, she gets caught in the middle of everything. She might not be able to see doctors that she has had a long-standing relationship with."
The people impacted the most by these controversies are patients who are beneficiaries of Medicare Advantage groups, such as Humana, Bryant said.
"Unfortunately, they often end up paying the penalties for this kind of dispute," he said, "but there are a plethora of other insurance companies that will sell supplemental insurance plans."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.