Tower Health, Independence Blue Cross at impasse

WEST READING, Pa. - A ceremony on Monday marked the formation of Berks County-based Tower Health, which oversees six hospitals in the region. CEO Clint Matthews said it's a bold new beginning. 

"It provides an opportunity for us to continue to serve the community that we have served for 150 years, as well as go into new communities," said Matthews. 

Tower Health now runs Reading Hospital, as well as hospitals in the Coatesville, Philadelphia, West Grove, Phoenixville and Pottstown areas, but due to an impasse in negotiations, Independence Blue Cross health plans won't be accepted at Tower Health facilities, leaving the coverage of about 120,000 people up in the air. 

"As we were acquiring the five hospitals, we asked all of the payers to enter into assignment agreements with us. All of the other payers agreed to those assignment agreements except IBC," said Matthews. "They [IBC] wanted a clause in a proposed agreement from them that we not compete within the markets, and we would not agree to that."​

Independence Blue Cross released a statement, saying in part: 

"While we are very disappointed with this outcome, our biggest concern right now is addressing the immediate needs of our members. That’s why we are launching a comprehensive outreach to members impacted by what’s happening via customer letters and a wide range of digital media, and text messaging.

Most importantly, we want to communicate the choices that members have for care at every other general acute care hospital in the southeastern Pennsylvania region, which are all part of the Independence network.

We are committed to providing coverage for our members at in-network levels at the five (former CHS/now Tower Health) hospitals, entities and physicians they employ, during at least the next 30 days.

As always, emergency services at any hospital are covered under all plans.

We encourage our members with questions to call 1-888-580-9500 (open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or visit Our customer service team is ready to work closely with members to help them get the care they need, when they need it, and with as little disruption as possible."

Independence Blue Cross customers who visit the hospitals will have a 30-day grace period from Sunday. Tower Health is still holding out hope that both sides can come back to the table and work something out. 

"I'm optimistic that we will be able to work out a relationship with IBC," said Matthews. "That would be helpful to the beneficiaries of IBC. It will be helpful to the communities and to us and IBC."

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