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Blue Cross, Southwestern Health reach agreement to keep 450,000 North Texans in network

A building emblazoned with Blue Cross Blue Shield logos.
Blue Cross Blue Shield was in contract negotiations with North Texas' largest provider for more than a year.

The two sides had until Tuesday to renew their contract.

The largest health insurer in Texas and the largest provider network in North Texas ended a contract dispute Tuesday, just hours before the deal was set to expire and leave hundreds of thousands of people out of network.

A joint statement from Southwestern Health Resources and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas said the two sides reached a multi-year agreement on a new contract that avoids interruption of service.

The new deal means doctors and facilities affiliated with Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Medical Center will remain Blue Cross members.

The two sides had been negotiating for more than a year, and failure to reach a deal by Tuesday could have impacted more than 450,000 North Texans. The contract for most plans – including Blue Choice PPO and Medicare Advantage PPO – was set to expire, with Blue Cross bristling at what it said was Southwestern’s demand for higher prices over the next 32 months.

Terms of the new contract were not available Tuesday.

The deal’s expiration could have had major implications for many North Texans: Southwestern Health coordinates care for more than 730,000 patients in a 16-county area, according to the hospital network.

Blue Cross, meanwhile, reports that it serves more than 6.8 million people across the state.

“This agreement provides (Blue Cross) members continued access to Southwestern Health Resources' network providers, which includes UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources' doctors and facilities, enabling us to deliver our highest quality care to the hundreds of thousands of patients who give us the privilege of their trust and confidence.” read a statement from Southwestern.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.