An Open Letter to City of Shreveport Employees/Retirees

Sep 04, 2022

For nearly 100 years Willis-Knighton Health System has built a healthcare organization dedicated to continuously improving the health and well-being of people in our community. That effort has resulted in Willis-Knighton being consistently recognized for its quality of care by independent organizations not affiliated with the health system. We have also expanded access to more and more people with: 

  • 5 hospitals 
  • 4 emergency rooms 
  • 7 Quick Care urgent care locations
  • More than 700 providers 
  • Cancer Center with the only proton therapy center in Louisiana
  • CARF accredited physical rehabilitation program (only hospital in North Louisiana with this designation)  

Organizations, including U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, consistently rank Willis-Knighton as the top rated hospital in this region. This is a testament to our excellent physicians, dedicated employees and a board of trustees that is committed to offering quality care, innovation and a good value to patients and insurance carriers.  

We are aware that a vast majority of the City’s employees and retirees seek care from Willis-Knighton’s doctors and hospitals. We believe this reflects their confidence in the quality care and convenience of our services. As the locally owned, locally operated not-for-profit health system, we respond quickly to issues, concerns and needs in our community. We consistently partner with others in our community who are dedicated to the health and welfare of people who live here.  

We met with the mayor and chief administrative officer on March 3 to discuss ways Willis-Knighton could help the City of Shreveport control its health insurance costs. We told them that we had developed a partnership with Aetna, a national insurance carrier, and proposed that the City consider offering a narrow network cost saving option. We looked forward to presenting that option at the April board meeting.  

Subsequently, we were surprised to learn Blue Cross/Blue Shield included this narrow network type option in their proposal to the trust fund board on March 15, just a few weeks after we had suggested it. We also found it interesting to hear that the board planned to offer retirees a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Medicare Advantage Plan, yet Blue Cross does not have a coverage contract with Willis-Knighton hospitals and doctors for this product.  

Since no formal RFP had been advertised, our April presentation to the board was both brief and generic. In the board minutes, our agenda item was referred to as “a preliminary presentation.” That made sense because WK/Aetna did not have access to all of the City’s healthcare data.  

We were given a brief 15 minute slot on the board’s agenda. This meeting included a representative from the only other competitor in this bid process, Blue Cross/Blue Shield. We believed that our proposal demonstrated savings and was favorably received.  

Understanding that City employees and retirees do not necessarily live in Shreveport, we worked with our insurance partner, Aetna, to offer a plan that would cover a nine parish area. Because Aetna contracts with all major area hospitals, we were able to assure that City employees had a broad choice of hospitals and doctors (almost 1000) from whom they could receive care.  

We expected the trust fund board to be transparent in its efforts to seek savings regarding employee and retiree health insurance changes. We were initially told by the City’s consultant that there would be no formal RFP process, but later we were advised that an RFP would be issued. A formal RFP would have provided clear and equitable terms of the contract, scope of work and scoring criteria, as well as data to facilitate a more accurate estimate of savings. Neither WK nor Aetna has ever received a formal RFP.  

Here are a few actions the trust fund board might consider:  

  • Publicly advertise an RFP and allow all insurance carriers to compete on an even playing field. This allows the most competitive pricing. It is also the standard operating purchasing procedure for the City. 
  • Offer the Willis-Knighton/Aetna narrow network in addition to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield narrow network and let the employees/retirees choose the plan that best meets the needs of them and their families. 
  • Make no changes to the current health insurance options for 2023. 
  • Offer retirees the more affordable Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan (larger choice of doctors and hospitals, including WK, Christus and Ochsner) alongside the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan (no WK hospitals or doctors contracted with this plan). Both of these plans would save the City money, and employees could choose the one that worked best for them.  

To be clear – we are not interested in pointing fingers or making accusations. We want the facts to be presented in order to assure that City workers, past and present, continue to have access to the care they want and deserve without being financially penalized for using their Willis-Knighton hospitals and doctors.  

We believe that, in an open transparent process, Willis-Knighton/Aetna can compete favorably with any proposals from out-of-town insurers or organizations. Why? Because while others come and go, Willis-Knighton is committed to being Always Here.  

Jaf Fielder
President & CEO 
Willis-Knighton Health System