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Empire BlueCross BlueShield reverses decision to drop LI providers

"We are thankful that it's been reversed," Dr.

"We are thankful that it's been reversed," Dr. Jeff Vacirca, CEO at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, said of Empire BlueCross BlueShield's decision to reinstate the provider. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Empire BlueCross BlueShield has reversed its decision to remove two large Long Island-based health care providers from some of its networks.

The move impacts about 8,300 patients.

Last month the insurer said it was removing Integrated Medical Professionals of Farmingdale, a urology and radiation oncology practice, and Port Jefferson Station-based New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, from its Medicare Advantage HMO and Dual Special Needs Plan networks.

A DSNP is a plan for patients who qualify for Medicare and Medicaid. 

 Empire on Thursday confirmed it reinstated the providers but didn't say why. The insurer said in a statement it "continually evaluates its networks and members can always go to to find a list of in-network providers."

Integrated Medical Professionals has 29 Long Island locations under the Advanced Urology Centers of New York and Advanced Radiation Centers of New York names.

New York Cancer & Blood Specialists handles about 350,000 patient visits annually at its 42 locations, including 15 on Long Island.

"I'm not sure if it was because logic prevailed or they received bad press, but we are thankful that it's been reversed," said Dr. Jeff Vacirca, CEO at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists. "It would have put our patients in a needless risk, and we truly care for these patients. This is good news."

Dr. Deepak Kapoor, chairman and CEO at Integrated Medical Professionals, said, "We met with senior staff [at Empire], and it wasn't at all a difficult conversation. We offer high-quality, lower-cost, value-based care. We were hoping the adults would talk to each other, and that's what happened. The most important piece of this is our patients will continue to receive uninterrupted access to care."

Patients and family members expressed relief at the reversal.

Breast cancer patient Susan Ryan, 69, of Stony Brook said she had a recurrence about a year ago and is undergoing care at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists.

"I wasn't going to change doctors, so I was going to drop out of BlueCross. No way do I change doctors," Ryan said. "It's great that I don't have to worry about this. These doctors are keeping me alive."

Tracey Seaver of East Northport said she takes her 83-year-old mother, Jean Freund, to many of her doctor's appointments at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists.

"My mother has been going there for 18 years," Seaver said. "This makes my day."

Geraldine Badolato of Lake Ronkonkoma said her husband, David, recently started treatment at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, and the news "makes me so happy. My husband needs the treatment, and we are old. We can't run around looking for new doctors. It's such a relief."

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