The state will take action if Piedmont Healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia don’t resolve their contract dispute by April 17, Gov. Nathan Deal announced.

Gov. Deal announced on Twitter April 16 that the state plans to use executive action if the two parties don’t resolve the dispute by the deadline.

The former Blue Cross/Piedmont contract expired April 1 after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations for a new one. Since then, Piedmont hospitals and doctors have been out of network to Blue Cross members, costing them more to go to those providers.

Deal met with the healthcare system and insurer April 16 to discuss the dispute, which has affected the more than 570,000 state and university system employees and family members.

State health officials said last week that they believe Anthem Blue Cross and Piedmont Healthcare, which operates its flagship Piedmont Hospital in Buckhead on Peachtree Road, have moved closer to agreement on reimbursement rates.

But Department of Community Health leaders say other issues have emerged as important obstacles to striking a deal. The health officials did not identify the remaining issues to resolve.

The governor previously announced that the state government and the University System of Georgia would absorb out-of-network costs for their employees for up to 30 days to reduce their potential financial burden.

It’s unclear how much it will cost the state to cover those members’ out-of-pocket costs during this period. But Deal’s decision does not affect the thousands of Piedmont patients who have Blue Cross coverage through a private employer.

This story includes reporting published by Georgia Health News.

Andy Miller | Kaiser Health News

Andy Miller is interim Southern bureau chief for Kaiser Health News.