PeaceHealth and Regence BlueShield have broken their stalemate over reimbursement rates - just days before a June 30 deadline that would have required thousands of Whatcom County residents to pay more or travel out of the county for medical care.
The new two-year contract between PeaceHealth, the county's largest health-care provider, and Regence, a major health insurer, begins July 1.
Neither side released details of the contract, including reimbursement rates.
"Both sides are pleased. Concessions were obviously made on both sides," Regence BlueShield spokeswoman Rachelle Cunningham said Monday, June 17, after the two sides jointly announced the new contract.
They reached the agreement Thursday, June 13.
The sticking point was what Regence BlueShield was willing to pay PeaceHealth for providing care, with the insurance company saying PeaceHealth wanted too much.
The dispute echoed that of the last contract negotiation in 2011, when an agreement was reached just weeks out from the deadline.
This time around, about 23,000 letters were sent to Regence members in a four-county area, including Whatcom, who would have been affected.
The notification to policyholders is required by state law and created a great deal of concern among Regence insurance customers who get their medical care through PeaceHealth.
Cunningham said the new contract itself will not translate into increases in policyholders' premiums. But that's not to say that premiums will not go up, because many things affect them, she added.
Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.