Dunedin retiree Charles Callaghan has been going to Morton Plant Hospital since he was in the third grade. With knee problems and joint pain, "I just about live at the osteopathic building they have over there."
So a recent contract dispute between BayCare Health Systems and Aetna had him worried. Along with about 300,000 other Tampa Bay area residents insured by Aetna, he faced the prospect of finding new doctors and new hospitals if Aetna and Morton Plant's corporate parent couldn't settle their differences by Dec. 31.
That worry evaporated Wednesday, when the two sides announced a new three-year deal for the hospitals to remain in Aetna's network.
"We serve the community," said BayCare executive Isaac Mallah, "and when we don't have an agreement with a managed care provider, it cuts access off, and we don't want to do that."
Stuart Kilpinen, Aetna's network vice president for the Tampa Bay area, echoed those now warm sentiments: "The BayCare facilities are an important part of our area network, and we're happy to be extending that affiliation."
Last-minute negotiations are common among hospitals and insurance providers when contracts expire. But this one held particular concern because the BayCare system includes many of the Tampa Bay area's most popular hospitals, including St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg, the St. Joseph's hospitals in Tampa, the Morton Plant hospitals in Clearwater and New Port Richey and the Mease hospitals in Dunedin.
Without BayCare, north Pinellas residents like Callaghan and his wife would have no available hospital between Largo Medical Center and Helen Ellis in Tarpon Springs, which are 20 miles apart.
"We were almost in a tizzy," said Callaghan, 51. He is disabled and gets insurance coverage through his wife's job. "We are paying a fortune as it is for health care. And then put us back burner."
Neither Aetna nor BayCare officials would reveal details of the deal.