Johnson City

Mountain States, BlueCross reach agreement

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The deal is done -- Mountain States Health Alliance and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee have reached an agreement.

After months of negotiations, the companies announced Friday they have signed a four-year contract. That means BlueCross members will receive care from Mountain States facilities on an in-network basis through 2017.

We're told about 15 percent of Mountain State's Tennessee patients carry BlueCross commercial insurance; another 13 percent are covered though TennCare, which is administered by BlueCross.

Negotiations have been ongoing since December.

"There are some things we both wanted to make sure we had in place to provide that value to patients and customers. Sometimes unfortunately, this takes time. Speaking for Mountain States, we're sorry it's taken this close to the June 30 [the deadline after a 30-day contract extension] date, but we're certainly excited to get things finalized last night," said Marvin Eichorn, chief financial officer for MSHA.

We asked officials from both companies if this agreement what this means for patients and customers will have to pay.

"Will it eliminate all cost increases? Probably not, but what we've done is addressed the rate of increase and we feel very strongly that it's our responsibility together to do that," said Roy D. Vaughn, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's vice president of corporate communications.

"There's some components that actually give ourselves, Mountain States, an incentive again working with 'the Blues' to actually reduce utilization and bring down that rate of growth and hopefully at some point have a decline in that," said Eichorn.

Mountain States officials said the agreement becomes effective July 1. Access for BlueCross members will continue without interruption.

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