After Zoe Friedland became pregnant with her first child, she was picky about choosing a doctor to guide her through delivery.
“With so many unpredictable things that can happen with a pregnancy, I wanted someone I could trust,” Friedland said. That person also had to be in the health insurance network of Cigna, the insurer that covers Friedland through her husband’s employer.
Friedland found an OB-GYN she liked, who told her that she delivered only at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, a part of San Francisco-based Dignity Health. Friedland and her husband, Bert Kaufman, live in Menlo Park, about 5 miles from the hospital, so that was not a problem for them — until Dec. 12.
That’s the day Friedland and Kaufman received a letter from Cigna informing them their care at Sequoia might not be covered after Jan. 1. The insurance company had not signed a contract for 2020 with the hospital operator, which meant Sequoia and many other Dignity medical facilities around the state would no longer be in Cigna’s network in the new year.
Suddenly, it looked as if having their first baby at Sequoia could cost Friedland and Kaufman tens of thousands of dollars.
“I was honestly shocked that this could even happen because it hadn’t entered my mind as a possibility,” Friedland said.
She and her husband are among an estimated 16,600 people caught in a financial dispute between two gigantic health care companies. Cigna is one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation, and Dignity Health has 31 hospitals in California, as well as seven in Arizona and three in Nevada. The contract fight affects Dignity’s California and Nevada hospitals, but not the ones in Arizona.