Update Aug. 11: Adventist Health and Anthem Blue Cross reached a new agreement that is set to take place immediately, according to Adventist Health.

Anthem Blue Cross and Adventist Health reached an agreement to provide continued in-network access to Anthem members at Adventist facilities, according to Adventist Health.


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Contract negotiations between Adventist Health Bakersfield and Anthem Blue Cross of California have stalled, potentially leaving thousands of Kern County patients to find a new healthcare provider.

Adventist president Daniel Wolcott called this one of the most aggressive stances Adventist has taken with an insurance provider in years.

The current contract between Adventist and Anthem is set to expire next Monday.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Wolcott spotlighted a gap between Anthem’s payout rates and those of other insurance companies — a gap that he calls “unsustainable.”

“We actually can’t divulge specific rates, however, the difference between Anthem and other payers is not two or three percent. It is significantly more than that,” Wolcott said.

A statement provided by Anthem spokesperson Michael Bowman said Anthem “offered reasonable increases that are in line with what other provider partners receive for the same services.”

“Anthem Blue Cross has been negotiating in good faith in an attempt to retain Adventist Health in our care provider network, and in fact we have a meeting tomorrow, in which we had hoped to reach a resolution. While we appreciate hospitals are facing labor, supply and other cost pressures, the reality is that employers across the country, including those we serve here in California, are facing those same pressures. We’ve offered reasonable increases that are in line with what other provider partners receive for the same services, which will help keep healthcare affordable for those we serve. We believe our care providers should be reimbursed fairly for the care their provide, and that has been reflected in our offers to Adventist during these negotiations. Our hope is to reach an agreement with Adventist prior to the current contract expiring, but if our efforts continue to be rebuked, we will work closely with our members to ensure they have access to quality care from any one of the many care providers in our network.”

Michael Bowman, Anthem Blue Cross

Anthem partners with other Kern County hospitals including Kern Medical, Mercy Hospital, and Memorial Hospital.

Bowman said those hospitals have accepted the rate increases Adventist rejected. But Wolcott said Anthem’s offers just weren’t enough to combat financial instability brought on by COVID.

“I know of one particular response where the increase they offered was 0.1 percent compared to their last time,” Wolcott said. “We have had other times where their proposals have been more reasonable, but we still remain a significant distance apart.”

Anthem covers one of the largest sections of Adventist’s patient population, second only to Kaiser. Wolcott said Adventist will not ask those patients to leave the hospital or alter their care if the contract expires.

But Anthem has given notice to physicians to direct those patients to seek care at other providers. Bowman says the companies will meet again Thursday to try to come to an agreement, as patients hang in the balance.