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News / Business / Clark County Business

Portland-based Legacy Health and Regence agree to new contract; Legacy Salmon Creek patients stay in network

Care for patients will continue without disruption thanks to new contract

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 1, 2024, 10:41am

Portland-based Legacy Health and Regence BlueCross BlueShield agreed to a new contract Sunday, allowing thousands of patients to continue accessing care through Legacy Health facilities using Regence benefits.

The two organizations announced the deal just hours before the current contract would have expired at midnight, according to a news release issued jointly by Legacy and Regence.

The organizations began contract negotiations in November 2023.

There will be no disruptions to care, according to a spokesperson for Legacy.  Patients can continue to see their Legacy doctors and use hospitals and services.

Patients who may have canceled appointments, due to uncertainty regarding the contract renewal, can contact Legacy to reschedule.

“We apologize for any stress or anxiety that these contract negotiations may have caused you,” Legacy Vice President Merrin Permut said in the news release.  “We know how important it is for you to have continued access to your trusted health care providers and are grateful to bring you peace of mind with a resolution. We are so grateful to our patients and our communities for their patience and understanding while we worked with Regence on a new agreement.”

Dean Johnson, strategic communications manager for Regence, shared similar sentiments with The Columbian.

“We are grateful that our members should have no further disruption in care, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Legacy to ensure our members have access to an important care partner in our communities,” Johnson said. “We recognize the uncertainty these negotiations caused for some Regence members and appreciate their patience as we worked with Legacy leadership to achieve reimbursement rates that are more sustainable for our members and customers.”

Legacy announced Feb. 6 it could terminate its contract with the insurance provider if a deal could not be reached by March 31. Legacy stated Regence’s payment schedule had not kept up with rising expenses in health care.

If an agreement had not been reached, Legacy would no longer be in-network for Regence members, which worried patients who receive care at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.

Legacy said that during the pandemic, it received $171 million in federal funding from COVID-19 relief programs; however, that federal support went to offsetting lost revenue, increasing staffing and covering COVID-19-related supplies. According to Legacy, the health system saw a $172 million loss in its most recent fiscal year that ended March 2023.

Regence said Legacy asked for a double-digit rate increase in the new contract.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.