Blackwell Hospital reaches huge, temporary, agreement about future of BC/BS insurance

by Jordan Green

A months-long battle between the operator of the city’s hospital and a major health insurance provider has been brought to a temporary respite.

Stillwater Medical Center, which operates the Blackwell hospital, has reached a short-term agreement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, one of the state’s leading health insurance carriers, that will allow Blue Cross patients to continue being cared for at Stillwater Medical facilities at in-network costs through December.

The Stillwater News Press first reported the agreement April 11. Blue Cross will continue to pay for Stillwater Medical’s services at the current contractual rates until Dec. 31, allowing patients to have normal coverage at Stillwater Medical facilities through the end of the year. Stillwater Medical facilities and physicians will remain in the insurance company’s network until then.

"BCBS has responded to our request and agreed to continue to pay Stillwater Medical at our current contract rates through Dec 31, 2023," Stillwater Medical spokeswoman Shyla Eggers told the News Press. "This will allow our patients and community partners the time needed to make future health plan benefit decisions while ensuring continued access to our network of physicians, providers and team."

The news of the temporary agreement came just weeks before the hospital and the insurance provider’s existing agreements were set to expire May 1.

The Dec. 31 deadline gives both sides more time to agree on a long-term contract for healthcare costs. But getting there may not be quick or easy.

The hospital and insurance provider have battled publicly over healthcare reimbursement costs since last year. Stillwater Medical officials have said Blue Cross is unwilling to fully reimburse the hospital for medical services amid rising cost increases in the healthcare industry. The hospital launched a website to update patients about the negotiations, saying Blue Cross’ latest agreement “greatly undervalued the services we provide to our BCBS patients.

“BCBS pays Stillwater Medical the lowest rates of any commercial payor we have a contract with,” hospital officials wrote April 7, a few days before the temporary agreement was reached. “The rates Stillwater Medical requested from BCBS would have taken our BCBS rates to the commercial state average rate.”

As reported by the News Press, Blue Cross officials said in a news release: “Our contracts with Stillwater Medical Center (Stillwater) were set to expire on May 1, 2023. We've extended our contracts with Stillwater hospitals in Stillwater, Blackwell and Perry, as well as the doctors and health care professionals employed by Stillwater, until Dec. 31, 2023. … You are our priority. We hope Stillwater hospitals and doctors will stay in our networks.”