West Columbia, SC (WACH) - A Midlands doctor says he is fighting for the rights of his patients.
Dr. Radwan Hallaba, Co-founder and CEO of MEDcare Urgent Care, recently received a letter from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina telling him services from MEDcare would no longer be a part of BCBS SC, the company's care provider network.
The doctor argues it's a business decision on BCBS's behalf, and a decision that traps patients who will have to pay higher out-of-network fees to keep seeing their provider of choice.
"When we asked them what was the reason or the indication for this, they cited they were using a no cause clause which means there was really no specific reason," said Dr. Hallaba.
The reason left Hallaba digging for more answers about why MEDcare Urgent Care was removed from the BlueCross BlueShield urgent care provider network.
"We further asked if it was an issue of cost. Were we more costly than other urgent cares? Were we somehow providing lower quality? Was there less access or convenience at our facilities than others, and on all three of those on cost, quality, and convenience the answer was no," added Hallaba.
WACH Fox reached out to BlueCross BlueShield for clarification.
Spokesperson Patti Embry-Tautenhan said this, "During the past few years there has been a rapid increase in growth in the urgent care market. Our decision to reduce the number of urgent care centers in our network reflects the larger national trend of smaller provider networks across all medical specialties. While this action affects a very small percentage of our overall membership, all customers continue to have significant choice in urgent care providers, as well as the option to go to out-of-network providers if they choose to pay higher out-of-network costs,"
However, Dr. Hallaba disagrees.
"When BlueCross BlueShield deselects us and essentially deselects our patients from us it has a huge impact," Hallaba said,
And it has become an impact that has sparked a social media buzz and a petition.
Patients of MEDcare Urgent Care have flooded the office Facebook page with support explaining their experience. Those patients even include some that do not use BCBS as an insurance provider.
Going to MEDcare for a mammogram referral took a wild turn for the Huebner family.
What Rosemarie Huebner thought was pneumonia, turned out to be stage 3a lung cancer.
"These doctors know what they're doing and they make sure that you're on your way to get well," said Huebner, a patient of MEDcare Urgent Care.
Describing the service as unreal, in a letter written to Dr. Hallaba, Rosemarie says she will do whatever she can to help BlueCross BlueShield patients understand what a loss it would be to be unable to choose MEDcare Urgent Care services.
"To me it's the best possible care you can get. You can get it seven days a week, nine to nine. You don't sit for hours. Like in an emergency room you may sit for 7-8 hours before you get your turn. That doesn't happen at urgent care," said Huebner.
"It's not a business decision, it's a healthcare decision. It's a taking care of patient decision, and we don't think it's fair whether its for MEDcare or any other urgent care. If a patient has an established relationship or wants to establish a relationship with this urgent care or that primary care or this etiologist or this cardiologist or this orthopedic, we believe that that is a part of a patients right," concluded Dr. Hallaba.
Dr. Hallaba plans to meet with BlueCross BlueShield on Monday.
So far, he has asked for BlueCross BlueShield to completely reverse its decision or push back the effective date to the end of this year.
If BCBS follows through with its original decision, patients insured by them will no longer have MEDcare Urgent Care as an option effective October 8, 2014.