TAMPA — BayCare Hospital System and Florida Blue said Wednesday they have reached an agreement that will spare tens of thousands of Tampa Bay residents from being forced to find new doctors.
The agreement means the nonprofit’s hospitals and doctors will remain in-network for roughly 85,000 Florida Blue insurance policy holders who regularly use BayCare medical services.
Negotiations between the provider and the health insurance company had stalled after seven months of talks when each one accused the other of prioritizing profits over patient needs.
Florida Blue, the state’s BlueCross BlueShield provider, and BayCare said Wednesday they agreed to a multi-year contract four days before the current agreement was set to expire Oct. 1.
BayCare had stopped scheduling elective surgeries earlier this month, and Florida Blue had reached out to its customers to try to set them up with new doctors.
Talks continued Wednesday even as most businesses were closed ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ian.
”With Hurricane Ian threatening our communities, we are thankful our members no longer need to be concerned about their ability to access their BayCare health care providers and can focus on what’s most important,” said David Pizzo, Florida Blue market president.
BayCare CEO and President Tommy Inzina said, “We are very pleased to have this agreement behind us so that we can focus on what matters most, our patients.”
“All along, our goal has been to reach an agreement with Florida Blue that allows BayCare to continue to meet the needs of our patients and our community today and far into the future.”
Because BayCare and Florida Blue reached an agreement before their current contract ended, patients will be able to continue services uninterrupted.
The impasse had provided a rare window into contract talks between two of Tampa Bay’s major health care players.
BayCare operates 15 hospitals across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties and BayCare Medical Group, one of the region’s largest physician groups.
It said that Florida Blue was not passing on proceeds from premium increases to medical providers.
Florida Blue officials said the hospital chain is seeking double-digit rate increases for hospital services and almost triple that for diagnostic ones like X-rays and MRIs that would cost an extra $80 million per year.
With the dispute now resolved, Florida Blue officials said they will send out letters to their customers confirming that they can continue to use BayCare services.