DETROIT (WWJ) – A fee dispute between two of Michigan’s health care powerhouses — Blue Cross Blue Shield and Beaumont Health System — has gone public. Beaumont said it will discontinue dealing with patients using Blue Care Network starting in January.

The hospital made the announcement in a full-page newspaper ad Thursday.

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WWJ Newsradio 950 talked to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan spokesman Andy Hetzel, who said the Blues would rather hash this out at the bargaining table.

“And, unfortunately, today Beaumont launched some advertising trying to draw conversations that should be happening at the negotiating table into a very visible PR fight between Blue Cross and Beaumont,” Hetzel said.

“We don’t believe that the people of Southeast Michigan really want Blue Cross and Beaumont to be fighting with each other in the media.  They want us to be working together to negotiate a contract that continues Blue Cross members’ access to Beaumont facilities and that’s what our intention is,” he said.

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Hetzel said Beaumont already receives about a 15 percent profit on Blue Cross business and is pressing for a major increase in fees.

Beaumont Doctor Sam Flanders said it’s all about money, and there’s a good reason for that.

“We have to be able to have an excellent team here at Beaumont.  We have to be able to retain our top talent and continue to develop them and we need the tools,” said Flanders.

“We are paid about 20 percent less than other area hospitals for the same services, and the sticking point is that Blue Cross is not willing to make up even part of that difference that we’ve asked for,” he said.

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Both sides say they’re hoping to get this settled through negotiations.