Saint Francis CEO says last-minute changes led to BCBS break; insurer disagrees

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Hours before a midnight deadline, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma changed terms in its proposed contract agreement with Saint Francis Health System, according to the CEO of the Tulsa, Okla.-based health system.

A contract agreement between Saint Francis and BCBS of Oklahoma expired April 30. Patients with BCBS of Oklahoma insurance have 90 days — or until July 29 — before they lose in-network access to Saint Francis.

Jake Henry Jr., president and CEO of Saint Francis, said in a May 7 media statement shared with Becker's that after several months of discussion, both parties had come to an agreement at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 30.

"While waiting for the contract, BlueCross unexpectedly sent new terms at 10:02 p.m. on Friday night with provisions that had not been agreed on earlier. The added terms materially changed the agreement. It wasn't a contract that I could sign — it wasn't what we agreed to just a few hours earlier," Mr. Henry said. The statement continued: "I am still ready to sign the contract I agreed to that afternoon. … We're just a few signatures away from being able to put this behind us … my pen is ready."

BCBS of Oklahoma disputed Mr. Henry's characterization of the negotiations, stating that Saint Francis had declined its last two offers and wouldn't agree to a short-term extension of negotiations. A sticking point is that Saint Francis is asking for reimbursement rates at its clinics and retail locations that mirror those at its acute care hospitals, BCBS of Oklahoma said. 

"We want to come to an agreement with Saint Francis. We tried for many months with that goal in mind, but we work for our members. It's their premium dollars that they've entrusted us with. We cannot sign an agreement that could put them in financial harm. When Saint Francis comes to the table with a reasonable agreement that ensures our members are protected from unexpected future costs, we'll sign," Rick Kelly, BCBS of Oklahoma's vice president of healthcare delivery and provider network operations, told Fox 23.

The insurer has notified 59,000 members about the change, according to Fox 23.

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