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Humana coverage, WV law affect heart patients

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Becky Sigman is worried about her heart valve replacement.

The 83-year-old knows she needs the surgery — her doctor told her as much. The doctor also told her that a conflict between the area hospitals able to perform the surgery and her health insurance could mean hours of travel, possibly out-of-state, for her to receive the care she needs.

“I may be too old for a valve replacement; I don’t know,” she said. “But if I’m living during open enrollment next year, you’d better believe I’m dropping Humana.”

Sigman’s doctor, Dr. Kishore Challa, is a cardiologist at Thomas Health System — he performs hundreds of cardiac catheterizations at Thomas each year, but he doesn’t perform valve replacements at the hospital. State law prevents more than one hospital system in each county from becoming a designated open heart facility, and that distinction belongs to Charleston Area Medical Center, which dropped its contract with Humana in 2013.

Now St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington has followed suit, ending its contract with Humana starting Jan. 1. The hospital, one of West Virginia’s largest, is the open heart facility in Cabell County…

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