Sparrow Hospital sent letters to more than 10,000 patients on Friday, indicating the patients may have to pay for unpaid medical claims if the Blue Cross insurance company doesn't reimburse the hospital.
The hospital says the insurance company owes more than $4 million in insurance claims that were filed before the year 2002.
Blue Cross Blue Shield representatives say some unpaid medical claims do exist, but they say that's because Sparrow filed the insurance claims incorrectly. For example, Blue Cross says Sparrow filed some claims without including important information like a patient's birth date. As a result, the insurance company says the claims went unpaid because they were invalid.
Sparrow denies having filed any incorrect insurance claims. They say they haven't had problems with any other insurance company or provider including Medicaid.
Sparrow Hospital officials say although the letter they sent out to patients indicates patients could have to pay for unpaid Blue Cross bills, they say that is unlikely, and they don't anticipate patients will have to pay for anything.
Blue Cross representatives say they will pay valid claims, but if they aren't filed correctly, there is nothing they can do.
Meanwhile, the two companies are working on a new contract. Sparrow Hospital says Blue Cross should be paying more for hospital services, but Blue Cross says the coverage and payments it provides is sufficient. The current, three-year agreement between the two groups expires on December 31st.
Blue Cross officials say patients who require oncology treatment, neonatal care or emergency services after that date will still be fully covered by Blue Cross insurance, if no agreement is reached between Sparrow and Blue Cross.
However, Blue Cross representatives say they are urging patients to seek out other hospitals if an agreement is not reached. They say that is the best way for patients to avoid paying additional out of pocket costs.
According to Blue Cross, all other hospitals in the state accept Blue Cross insurance.