CHW: Hospital Chain Agrees to New Contract with Blue Cross
Catholic Healthcare West and Blue Cross of California have agreed to a new contract, avoiding the possibility that the hospital chain, which operates nearly 10% of the state's hospitals, would stop accepting Blue Cross patients, the Los Angeles Times reports. With the contract between CHW and Blue Cross set to expire at midnight on Monday, both sides struggled over reimbursement issues. CHW officials indicated that they would not continue the contract if Blue Cross failed to increase the amount they pay for patient care. Although details of the new, multiyear contract were not released, Blue Cross spokesperson Michael Chee said, "We worked out most of the major issues" (Bernstein, 8/16). Blue Cross President Ron Williams added, "Negotiations continued right up to our termination date, but on behalf of our members, we are pleased that the CHW hospitals will remain in the Blue Cross network." CHW President and CEO Lloyd Dean said, "We are pleased that we will be able to continue our long working relationship with Blue Cross" (Blue Cross/CHW release, 8/15). Noting that the two organizations are important to each other's business, some industry experts had predicted that a deal would be reached. Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans, said, "What we have here is two business partners that need each other. They huff, they puff, but like most good negotiating partners, they make the deal when it comes down to the wire" (Fisher, Sacramento Bee, 8/16). While the contract dispute has been settled, other problems remain for the two groups. In June, CHW filed a $50 million lawsuit against Blue Cross, alleging the insurer failed to pay certain treatment costs (Terwilleger, Bakersfield Californian, 8/15).
Deals All Around
Blue Cross negotiators were busy this week, as the health plan also reached an agreement with Scripps Health. Facing a Tuesday deadline, negotiators reached a three-year deal that will allow nearly 118,000 San Diego residents to receive nonemergency care from Scripps' five hospitals. Although Scripps officials did not comment on the contract, a statement released by the hospital system said that "Scripps fully recognized the importance of the outcome of these contract renegotiations for Blue Cross members, as well as Scripps hospitals and affiliated physician partners" (Fong, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/16).