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Anthem blue, Union Hospital reach deal : Foulkes

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Months of uncertainty ended late Thursday afternoon when Union Hospital Health Group and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced they had reached an agreement on a new multi-year contract. The pact came just a day ahead of a deadline that had loomed large over thousands of Anthem subscribers.

The largest health care provider in the Wabash Valley and one of the largest commercial health insurance providers in the state had been in sometimes contentious negotiations for more than a year.

No details of the agreement were immediately available. A news release issued by both sides Thursday evening stated that terms of the contract, which takes effect Sept. 1, cannot be discussed by either side.

“We’re pleased that several months of hard work has brought these negotiations to a successful conclusion and that Anthem customers in West Central Indiana will continue to have access to affordable medical care at Union Hospital facilities,” said Anthem vice president of health services Dr. David Lee in the news release.

“We have worked hard to achieve a fair contract that helps to preserve the hospital’s mission of providing compassionate care of the highest quality to all of our patients regardless of their ability to pay,” said Union Hospital Health Group CEO David Doerr in the same news release. “We recognize how stressful this has been for our patients and appreciate their support and patience during these negotiations.”

Doerr is scheduled to make an official announcement this morning at a news conference at Union Hospital in Terre Haute.

Union and Anthem have been negotiating a new contract since April 2008. Those negotiations became publicly contentious early in this year when Union announced it was having serious difficulty reaching an agreement with Anthem. In February, Union gave notice that it was terminating its contract with Anthem as of July 31.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to an agreement concerned hospital reimbursement for medical services provided at outpatient clinics involved in joint ventures with Union. Anthem wanted to reimburse those services at “free standing” outpatient clinic rates. Union contended the services should be reimbursed at higher “hospital rates.”

This spring, Union Hospital chief financial officer Wayne Hutson said about $30 million separated the two sides’ bargaining positions. A few weeks later, Hutson told the Tribune-Star the two sides had moved closer, reducing the difference to about $19 million. Most of the difference concerned reimbursement for medical services at outpatient clinics, he said.

Union and Anthem officials were in “constant communication” this week prior to reaching the agreement, said Lorrie Heber, system director for marketing and public relations at Union Hospital. Neither side would comment further Thursday evening.


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