CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE WEST: Reaches 11th-Hour Settlement With Blue Cross
Catholic Healthcare West and Blue Cross of California reached "a last-minute agreement" sometime "early Tuesday morning," averting a canceled contract "between the giant insurer and the 37-hospital chain." The San Jose Mercury News reports that Blue Cross agreed to pay a "higher rate" of reimbursement to CHW, resolving the point of contention between the two companies. Further details of the agreement were not made public (Krieger, 7/9). "Both sides were so pessimistic about reaching a settlement that they publicly issued a transition plan earlier this week," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Both parties worked long and hard to work this out. Negotiations continued right up to our deadline of midnight last night," said Andrew Allocco, Blue Cross senior vice president of network development and management (MacGregor, 7/9).
Left A Bad Taste?
But all the squabbling "may have soured some Blue Cross patients," the Sacramento Bee reports. "I think they will lose a certain amount (of members) just because of the turmoil. Some say this is just too much hassle," said Dale Waters, a Sacramento health insurance broker (Young, 7/9). Apologizing for the disputes, CHW CMO Kevin Fickenscher said, "We deeply regret any confusion this may have caused our patients, and we are pleased that we have re-established our long working relationship with Blue Cross and look forward to meeting our patients' expectations for quality, compassionate care" (Ross, Santa Barbara News-Press, 7/9). Wall Street, however, was unfazed by the drama's end. Shares of Blue Cross parent WellPoint "were unchanged at $69.63 on the NYSE" (Bloomberg News/Los Angeles Times, 7/9).
Time To Play Hardball
The Mercury News reports that CHW "is the third hospital chain to win rate increases from Blue Cross." Sutter Health and Columbia/HCA also have won increases (7/9). Experts say this "strong stance by hospitals is part of an evolution," the Bee reports. "The Sutter Health and [CHW] experience suggests we're getting to the point where they are playing hardball," said Beau Carter, executive director of the nonprofit Integrated Healthcare Association (7/9).*