Patients who have been seen and will be seen through 's emergency room and who are covered under Regence BlueShield should not see any changes in out-of-pocket costs at least through Oct. 31, according to Franciscan Health System which manages five hospitals in the Puget Sound area, including the Gig Harbor location.
This update, as posted on the FHS website Wednesday, is contrary to a communication that was sent to Regence patients last week that indicated the emergency room physicians at all five FHS hospitals (St. Anthony, St. Clare in Lakewood, St. Elizabeth in Enumclaw, St. Francis in Federal Way and St. Joseph in Tacoma) along with two outside hospitals would no longer be considered in-network physicians by Regence and that it may lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients who are seen by those ER physicians.
Gale Robinette, a spokesperson for FHS, explained that the first communication was sent out when Regence was still negotiating a new contract with Northwest Emergency Physicians, an independent group that represents the ER physicians at the hospitals identified in that letter (a copy is attached to this story).
In turn, FHS negotiates its own contract with Northwest Emergency Physicians, Robinette said.
As of Tuesday night, according to Robinette, a decision was made to extend the existing contract between Regence at Northwest Emergency Physicians to Oct. 31, meaning until then, there should be no changes for patients.
Of the first communication from Regence, Robinette said, "This is a common thing that happens when insurance companies negotiate contracts."
He said he would expect Regence will follow up their first communication with a subsequent notice indicating that the contract remains valid for the time being. "Meanwhile, they'll continue to negotiate a new contract," he said.
Regence BlueShield spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham confirmed the contract remains in place while "Regence and Northwest Emergency Physicians continue to work together to put a long-term agreement in place."
Either party has the option to issue a termination in September if progress is not being made, she said "but we fully anticipate reaching an agreement. Unless we notify our members otherwise, they can continue to see Northwest Emergency Physicians providers at their in-network rates at all of the facilities they practice at throughout the state," Cunningham said.
Regardless of potential changes regarding network designation, however, "no one would ever be denied care," Robinette said.