The health insurer Anthem Inc. was sued by doctors in Georgia for declining to pay for some emergency-room care, escalating a long-running battle over how far insurance plans can go to push patients to seek lower-cost treatment.
The American College of Emergency Physicians and the Medical Association of Georgia filed suit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta against Anthem’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia unit over the denied payments. The doctors asked the court to require Anthem to halt its policy and cover the claims.
“Providers and patients alike are operating in fear of denial of payment by defendants when patients seek emergency department care,” the groups said in the filing.
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It’s the latest legal challenge over a change in policy that Anthem says was designed to cut down on patients going to an emergency room in situations that don’t require it. Emergency-room care usually costs significantly more than treatment at a doctor’s office or an urgent-care clinic. Georgia’s Piedmont Hospital and five related facilities also have sued Anthem over the policy, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in February.
Before putting the policy in place, Anthem sent letters to customers explaining the policy and urging them to use other sites for care. The insurer also held meetings with physicians, according to the suit.
Anthem didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.