Standoff Between Maine's Largest Hospital, Insurer Could Impact Hundreds of Thousands

Maine Medical Center in Portland, the state's largest hospital, said it would make the Anthem insurance company out-of-network in 2023 if a financial disagreement between them is not resolved

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Maine's largest hospital and its biggest insurer are in a faceoff that could affect hundreds of thousands of people in the state.

On Wednesday, Maine Medical Center in Portland said it would make the Anthem insurance company out-of-network in 2023 if a financial disagreement between the two entities is not resolved.

The hospital claims Anthem owes it more than $70 million for health care services going back three years.

Anthem disputes this, saying that the hospital made increases in charges for services that it described in a statement sent to NECN and NBC10 Boston as "unacceptable" and "unilateral."

It also said that a review it conducted in 2018 discovered "overbilling" and $20 million in "overcharges" to Anthem members.

On Wednesday afternoon, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said she "strongly" urged the hospital and insurance company "to put the interests of Maine people first, to resolve this issue in a timely way, and to reach an agreement that averts the need for such a drastic, damaging move."

Until there is a resolution, the 300,000 people who have Anthem insurance in Maine will face some level of uncertainty in terms of how much they will have to pay for care at Maine Medical Center next year.

To save for unexpected expenses, big or small, Nicole Morong, a certified financial planner and CEO at Peterkin Financial, says she asks one overarching question: "What is within your control when it comes to your cash flow?"

In a Thursday interview with NECN and NBC10 Boston, Morong said there may be ways for people to save on monthly bills, like by searching for different car or home insurance deductibles rather than cutting what their plan actually covers in order to lower costs.

"That can be a really painless way to save some money," she explained.

Among Morong's other strategies to save are asking health care providers if they offer monthly payment plans for certain bills.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and with inflation rising, Morong has also seen people cut back on costs by choosing to buy more generic products over branded ones and eating at home more instead of getting food from restaurants.

As far as what someone who is trying to save should avoid doing, she had one key suggestion.

"I think the worst thing that you can do when you get an unexpected expense is to pull out the credit card," she said. "When you can't afford to pay that credit card bill off in the next month or two, you're all of a sudden compounding a problem."

She went on to explain that someone might then face 15-30% interest on that initial cost.

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