PEORIA — After a month and a half of additional negotiations, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois health insurance network will still include OSF HealthCare hospitals.
"All OSF HealthCare hospitals and services will continue to be in network now and in the new year," OSF HealthCare said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
“We are pleased to have finalized a continuation of OSF Healthcare’s relationship with BCBSIL that ensures patients and families have in-network access to the treatments and services they need,” said Randy Billings, senior vice president of population health, in a prepared statement. “We realize this situation caused concern for our patients and families, and appreciate the support and patience of local businesses and community leaders.”
It brings an end to a standoff that had many central Illinoisans worried about changes to some of their health care patterns at a time that many were going through insurance open enrollment periods.
The agreement includes all "BCBSIL Commercial, PPO, EPO, and Blue Choice products that (Blue Cross) terminated previously," the company statement said, referring consumers to a complete listing online at www.osfhealthcare.org/blue.
It's "a multi-year agreement," Billings said in an interview posted by OSF on its website.
"The fact that Blue Cross terminated OSF probably isn't the tradition of how things go, but if you look around the country there are disputes and contract discussions going on all around the country at any given time," Billings said in the online interview. "Both parties realize that we want to be in network with them and they want us to be in their network. ... We buckled down and negotiated an agreement that is acceptable to both parties."
However, Billings did caution that consumers should take note of the plans being offered by their employers to ensure that there have been no changes made on that end.
"If an individual employer has changed their options or changed their benefit plan or changed the policy that they are under, then the members will certainly have to talk to their employers about those changes," he said in the online interview.
In early October, Blue Cross announced it was dropping OSF hospitals in Peoria, Galesburg and Rockford. OSF, in turn, said it couldn’t provide regional broad-based coverage including referrals because of the move, and removed its other hospitals in Illinois — with the exception of Alton — from the in-network coverage. OSF’s non-hospital providers were not affected by the move.
This all occurred after negotiations in which Blue Cross expressed a desire to expand its regional network beyond OSF hospitals, which had long offered the company preferred rates, but could no longer maintain them.
Both sides indicated that they were open to continuing negotiations.
At the same time that announcement was made, UnityPoint Health-Methodist announced that effective in January, it would become part of the Blue Cross network for the first time in more than 30 years.
That arrangement is still in place with no changes, company spokesman Blake Long said Wednesday afternoon.
Other UnityPoint Health providers, both Proctor and Pekin hospitals as well as the physicians network, were in arrangements to accept Blue Cross already.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.