Northwest Health System, Blue Cross In Talks Again

Representatives from Northwest Health System in Springdale and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield resumed negotiations on Wednesday, according to an NHS news release.

The two entities have been squabbling over proposed rate increases, among other things, and previously set Aug. 31 as a termination date for their contract.

According to the news release, the existing contract between NHS and BCBS now will continue without interruption.

"Today's developments make us optimistic that continued dialogue with BCBS will be both collaborative and productive," NHS CEO Dan McKay said in the release. "In the meantime, the many patients, community members and local employers who rely on Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield for their health care coverage can have peace of mind knowing their insurance plans will continue to include the local hospitals and physicians they know and trust with their medical care."

NHS is one of eight hospitals and a host of clinics in Arkansas owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems. As discussions between NHS and ABCBS continue, the hospital and its affiliated physicians will continue to participate as "in-network" providers in ABCBS insurance plans.

ABCBS members will experience no change in fees or in the way they interact with either the NHS or the health plan, the news release said.

Talks between the parties ended earlier this month, after ABCBS said it would not agree to additional increases in reimbursement.

In a letter to its agents dated Aug. 10, ABCBS said, "We already are paying CHS hospitals the same rate that we pay all other Arkansas hospitals for outpatient services. And for inpatient services, we actually pay more, on average, to CHS hospitals than we pay to other Arkansas hospitals."

CHS operates eight hospitals in Arkansas including the Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville and the Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado. It also operates seven physician clinics, which has about 140 physicians and includes the Northwest Benton County Physician Services in Bentonville and South Arkansas Physicians Services in El Dorado.