Healthcare Contract Standoffs and Recession Expectations: Exploring the Link

Ben H.

Hatched by Ben H.

Oct 14, 2023

4 min read


Healthcare Contract Standoffs and Recession Expectations: Exploring the Link


Contract disputes between healthcare providers and insurers have become increasingly public, shedding light on the ongoing debate over reimbursement rates and billing practices. These conflicts often arise from differences in opinion regarding the necessity and urgency of healthcare claims. The heightened number of public contract disputes reflects the financial pressures faced by both parties, including rising labor and supply costs and looming Medicare reimbursement cuts. Additionally, economists are now revising their recession expectations due to easing inflation, a resilient labor market, and overall economic strength. In this article, we explore the common points between these two seemingly unrelated topics and discuss their potential impact on the healthcare industry.

Healthcare Contract Standoffs:

Bon Secours Mercy Health recently filed a lawsuit against Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, claiming that the insurer owes them nearly $100 million in unpaid, reduced, and denied claims for patient care in Virginia. The health system argues that Anthem has engaged in a systemic strategy of delaying, downgrading, and denying treatment charges, resulting in financial setbacks for healthcare providers. Anthem, on the other hand, contends that these allegations are part of Bon Secours Mercy Health's attempt to demand double-digit price increases during an active contract with the insurer. This dispute highlights the growing trend of healthcare providers and insurers taking their contract disagreements public.

Impact on Patients:

When providers and insurers fail to reach an agreement, patients often bear the brunt of the consequences. Exclusion of preferred health systems from a patient's health plan network can lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for necessary medical care. This year alone, 19 out of 49 contracting stalemates have resulted in out-of-network care, compared to just nine in the same period last year. As contract disputes continue to escalate, patients may find it increasingly difficult to access the healthcare services they need within their network, resulting in financial burdens and potential gaps in care.

Recession Expectations:

In a separate development, economists are revising their expectations of a recession in the next 12 months. Factors such as easing inflation, a strong labor market, and economic resilience have led business and academic economists polled by The Wall Street Journal to lower the probability of a recession from 61% to 54%. This shift in sentiment reflects the overall strength of the economy and provides some optimism for the future.

Connecting the Dots:

Although healthcare contract standoffs and recession expectations may appear unrelated at first glance, there are underlying connections that warrant exploration. One common factor is the financial pressure faced by both healthcare providers and insurers. The need to manage rising costs and maintain profitability influences their respective negotiating positions. Additionally, economic resilience and stability play a role in both contexts. A strong economy can alleviate some of the financial strain on healthcare providers, potentially reducing the likelihood of contract disputes. Similarly, a recession could exacerbate the already tense relationship between providers and insurers, leading to more conflicts and potentially impacting patient access to care.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Negotiation and Collaboration: Providers and insurers should prioritize open and constructive dialogue to find mutually beneficial solutions. Collaborative efforts can help bridge the gap between competing financial interests, ensuring that patients receive the care they need without incurring excessive costs.
  • 2. Transparent Communication: Clear and transparent communication between health systems, insurers, and patients is crucial. Patients should be informed about any potential changes to their network coverage and the associated implications. This transparency can help patients make informed decisions about their healthcare options and mitigate financial surprises.
  • 3. Diversification of Provider Networks: Patients should consider the inclusion of multiple healthcare providers within their network to mitigate the risk of exclusion during contract disputes. Diversifying provider options can provide greater flexibility and ensure continued access to care, even in the face of contractual uncertainties.


As healthcare contract disputes continue to rise, the impact on patients and the healthcare industry as a whole becomes increasingly significant. The connection between these disputes and shifting recession expectations highlights the need for proactive measures to ensure fair and accessible healthcare for all. By prioritizing negotiation, collaboration, transparent communication, and diversification of provider networks, stakeholders can work towards a more stable and resilient healthcare system, even in the face of economic uncertainties.

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