Florida Blue members will again be able to use Memorial Healthcare System hospitals at in-network rates under a new multiyear contract agreement reached by the two companies on Friday.
The agreement, retroactive to Oct. 1, caps months of negotiations that were unresolved when the previous contract expired Aug. 31. Thousands of Florida Blue members have been without in-network access to the hospitals since Sept. 1.
The agreement also comes just weeks before open enrollment is set to begin for individual and employer-funded health insurance plans. After the previous contract expired with no agreement, Memorial Healthcare advised its patients to look for new health insurers for 2021, potentially costing Florida Blue thousands of members.
Memorial, the dominant hospital system in southern Broward County, operates two hospitals in Pembroke Pines, two in Hollywood, one in Miramar and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
In a joint news release, the two companies offered no details about the new pact, which also affects members of affiliated Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers from outside Florida.
Florida Blue had accused Memorial of opening negotiations for a new contract by demanding rates 40% higher than under the previous pact that would drive up insurance costs for its members. Memorial accused Florida Blue of refusing to pay competitive market-driven rates.
The new pact restores in-network status for Memorial’s six hospitals for all Florida Blue plans, including individual/Affordable Care Act plans, BlueSelect, employer group, Medicare and Truli for Health.
Other Memorial services, such as physician groups, emergency rooms, urgent care centers and same-day surgical centers, were not affected by the contract lapse.
“We are excited that our 20+ year relationship focused on serving the health care needs of our members in South Florida will continue with Memorial Healthcare,” Shawn Trotter-Mitchell, Florida Blue’s senior vice president of provider network solutions, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to exploring innovative ways in which we can continue to increase our member’s access to high-quality and affordable health care solutions.”
Matt Muhart, Memorial Healthcare executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said: “Our top priority is the health, safety and well-being of our community and the patients we serve. Through this agreement, we remain committed to moving health forward and providing care with the highest level of safety and quality.”
Without the new contract, Memorial Healthcare patients in southern Broward County faced having to drive up to 20 miles from their homes to find in-network hospitals, as well as finding new physicians contracted to use other hospitals. Otherwise, they face high out-of-network rates for continuing to use Memorial hospitals.
Keith Cohen, a Florida Blue member who rushed to schedule a needed procedure at a Memorial hospital before the Aug. 31 contract expiration, said he was happy to hear the two sides came to agreement. “It makes a big difference to a lot of people down here,” he said.