PeaceHealth, Regence sign new two-year contract

Agreement ensures Regence members can continue to receive care at hospital

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Kortum, CEO of PeaceHealth's Columbia Network, to retire

Kortum, CEO of PeaceHealth’s Columbia Network, to retire

PeaceHealth and Regence have reached an agreement on a new two-year contract, averting possible service disruptions and cost increases for Clark County residents.

The new deal, reached Sunday, ensures Regence members can continue to receive care at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and PeaceHealth Medical Group at in-network rates, according to a news release from Regence.

The deal comes two weeks after Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon sent letters to 19,000 members in Southwest Washington. The letters notified members that the insurer’s contract with PeaceHealth was set to expire June 30, sparking alarm among local members in the midst of ongoing treatments.

Without a new deal, Regence members would have needed to either find new providers or pay out-of-network rates for services provided by PeaceHealth. The new contract is effective July 1 so members will not experience a disruption of services.

Word of the slow-moving contract negotiations came less than six months after Kaiser Permanente Northwest announced it was ending its agreement with PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Beginning Oct. 1, Kaiser-insured residents in Clark County will use Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center for hospital services.

Even though Regence mailed the warning letters, officials continued to negotiate with PeaceHealth. Regence was required to send out notices since contract terms hadn’t been extended or renegotiated within 30 days of the contract expiration date.

Regence spokesman Scott Burton said he couldn’t discuss the details of the agreement but said the new deal is good news for members and customers.

“We are pleased that we have been able to hold the line on rising health care costs, meeting our obligation to all of our members to do everything we can to keep health care costs affordable,” he said.

In a joint news release from PeaceHealth and Regence, the organizations said they understand the impact failed negotiations would have had on members and patients and are pleased with the new deal.

“In order to create a more economically sustainable health care system, it is critical we move toward paying doctors and hospitals for quality health outcomes versus the number of services they provide,” said Jared Short, president of Regence Insurance Holding Company, in the news release. “Our new agreement with PeaceHealth begins to move us in that direction, and we look forward to working with them on finding new ways to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of care for our members and their patients.”

In addition to the Clark County providers, the new agreement covers Regence members using PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center in Friday Harbor and the medical groups in those service areas.

UnitedHealthcare negotiations continue

Earlier this month, UnitedHealthcare distributed similar notification letters to its members in Clark County. The negotiations between United and PeaceHealth continue.

“We continue to engage in good-faith discussions with PeaceHealth in the hopes of reaching a mutual agreement that allows UnitedHealthcare to continue offering affordable, quality health care products,” United spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer said in a written statement.

The current contract between PeaceHealth and UnitedHealthcare expires June 30.

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