Catholic Health reaches two-year deal with Independent Health, while talks with Highmark continue

Catholic Health and Catholic Medical Partners have reached a new agreement with one of the largest health plans in Western New York.

The two-year agreement with Independent Health ensures that the health plan’s members will continue to have access to Catholic Health hospitals and its network of services, along with the 900 physicians affiliated with Catholic Medical Partners. The deal is valid until 2024.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement that works for Catholic Health, Independent Health and most importantly for the thousands of members we both serve,” Catholic Health President and CEO Mark Sullivan said in a statement. “We would like to thank Independent Health for recognizing the important role we play in improving the health of our community, the hard work of our caregivers, and the quality and value we bring to healthcare throughout Western New York.”

Negotiations between health systems and health plans determine the reimbursement rates that insurers, such as Independent Health, will pay in-network providers, such as Catholic Health.

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The agreement announced Friday comes as Catholic Health continues to try to strike a deal with the area’s other major health plan, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York.

Catholic Health and Highmark have been in talks since February and have so far struggled to reach an agreement. Although the current deal expires Dec. 31, the mandatory “cooling off” period means the two sides have until at least Feb. 28 to reach a new agreement that will ensure Highmark members continue to have in-network access to Catholic hospitals Health, nursing homes and ambulatory surgery centers.

People familiar with ECMC’s comprehensive psychiatric emergency program say it has long been a harrowing experience for patients and staff, but conditions have worsened as the pandemic has spread this year and staff ranks have thinned.

“We met again today with Catholic Health to review the latest terms,” ​​Highmark spokesman Kyle Rogers said Friday. “We feel we are making progress and are optimistic that we will reach an agreement.”

Highmark has now reached a new long-term agreement with Kaleida Health, a deal that was announced on November 15.

It’s all made for a particularly public round of negotiations for the health system and insurers in Western New York, a process that usually remains quiet and behind the scenes.

But these talks also come almost three years after the Covid-19 pandemic put a significant strain on the healthcare system.

In a statement Friday, Independent Health President and CEO Dr. Michael W. Kropp said the health plan “is proud to develop collaborative relationships with our local provider partners to meet the health care needs of Western New York “.

Kropp’s statement also called Amherst-based Independent Health “the only true local health plan.” Highmark of Western and Northeastern New York changed its name from HealthNow New York in 2021 after completing its association with Pittsburgh-based Highmark Inc., while Univera Healthcare is part of Rochester-based Excellus Health Plan. Both Highmark and Univera remain major employers in Western New York.

“As the only truly local health plan, we understand the needs and opportunities facing our region and recognize the importance of maintaining strong relationships with local health systems and practices to serve our members and our community,” Kropp said.

John Harris can be reached at 716-849-3482 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ByJonHarris.

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