Integris and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma have reached a new contract agreement that will maintain in-network coverage at Integris facilities.

TULSA – In a joint press release issued late Tuesday afternoon, Integris and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) announced they reached a new contract agreement.

In July, BCBSOK members served by Integris were notified in a letter from the medical group that it had entered into a 60-day contract extension with the health insurer. The extension was put in place while negotiations continued for Intergis to remain an in-network provider for BCBSOK employer-sponsored or Medicare Advantage health plan patients.

An Aug. 11 Op-Ed by Integris president and chief executive officer Bruce Lawrence said that Integris had proposed to maintain its contract terms with a 3 percent increase, which was rejected by BCBSOK and countered with contract terms that Lawrence said Integris could not abide.

"At the outset of our negotiations, Integris indicated it was willing to keep its current contract terms along with a modest 3 percent rate increase," wrote Lawrence. "BCBSOK has denied this request and demanded more than 130 changes to our current agreement. We find this unacceptable."

For BCBSOK members concerns centered around access to health services provided through Integris hospitals, ancillary facilities, and physicians if a new agreement was not met. A lapse in BCBSOK in-network coverage would have been particularly difficult for communities such as Miami and its surrounding areas where Integris Miami serves as the regional hospital.

Further, BCBSOK currently provides coverage to more Oklahomans than any other insurer and is the only company left in the state’s federal insurance exchange, meaning the impact of failed negotiations would have been significant throughout the state.

The contract extension was set to end Sept. 1, putting the Aug. 29 agreement announcement just two days ahead of that deadline.

“Reaching an agreement was always our goal,” said Lawrence. “Both Integris and Blue Cross and Blue Shield want what is best for our patients – and that is to continue offering high-quality, convenient and affordable medical care and coverage to the people of Oklahoma.”

Under the new two-year contract BCBSOK members will continue to receive in-network benefits at Integris facilities as well as with more than 600 Integris doctors across Oklahoma, according to the press release.

As part of the new agreement, Integris hospitals and physicians will also participate in BCBSOK’s exchange product Blue Advantage, with an effective date as yet announced.

“We are pleased to reach a new agreement that allows our members to continue receiving care at Integris at in-network rates and benefit levels,” said Ted Haynes, president of BCBSOK. “We take very seriously our role as steward of our members’ health care coverage dollars. This agreement underscores our commitment to provide our members access to quality, cost-effective health care and ensures members are treated by in-network health care providers when going to an in-network facility. We look forward to continuing our long-term relationship with Integris.”

Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor for the Miami News-Record. Contact her at dballard@miaminewsrecord.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.