Urgent care centers, BCBS of South Carolina dispute elicits legislative response

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Two South Carolina representatives want to meet with Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina and several urgent care centers to address what they argue is an attempt by BCBS to limit competition among urgent care centers, according to the Greenville News.

The dispute revolves around urgent care centers in upstate South Carolina that are part of American Family Care's national 200-center network. The centers claimed they were barred from entering BCBS' preferred provider network. Jeff Harris, MD, a medical director and an investor in five of the AFC urgent care centers, told the publication the health insurer is not accepting new centers.

However, BCBS rejected those claims. A spokesperson from the insurer, Patti Embry-Tautenhan, told the Greenville News: "We take great exception to and umbrage at their unfounded attack on our ethics and integrity. Our constant business challenge is the effective balancing of cost and access."

"Currently, there is a proliferation of urgent care centers," she said. "That fact must be considered as we negotiate on behalf of our members. We look forward to communicating directly and educating the representatives about the complexities of the health insurance market."

BCBS added it is in active negotiations with the centers, but did not provide details to the Greenville News. As of now, patients with BCBS plans have to pay out-of-network rates to use the AFC centers.

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