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Ascension and Blue Cross reach a deal on health care costs

Gabriel C. Pérez

Ahead of an end-of-month deadline, Ascension and Blue Cross Blue Shield say they've struck a deal that would allow thousands of Central Texans to keep their health care plans intact.

The two parties announced earlier this month they'd reached a stalemate in negotiations, putting at risk the health care coverage of at least 66,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield customers. Those customers would have had to pay out-of-pocket for some care at Austin's major hospitals, including Ascension Seton Medical Center and Dell Children's Medical Center, if not for an agreement.

Ascension announced the deal in a statement last Friday to KUT, saying patients' plans would be unchanged.

"The new agreement ... ensures that the community can continue to access quality care with Ascension’s well-known and trusted providers," the statement reads. "Patients can continue scheduling appointments with their providers as normal."

Blue Cross announced the deal Monday afternoon. President Jim Springfield said in a statement the deal "reflects our mutual commitment to quality, affordable health care" and that the insurer was "protect[ing] ... access to care at fair rates" for BCBS customers.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is the largest insurer in Texas, providing employer-based health insurance plans to UT Austin, City of Austin, Amazon and H-E-B employees.

The agreement caps weeks of confusion for patients, who feared they may lose access to life-saving treatment.

Last week, Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district, sued Ascension Seton, alleging it violated an agreement to run UT’s Dell Seton Medical Center by failing to provide health care for low-income Austinites. Central Health proposed taking over the hospital. Ascension filed a countersuit, arguing the hospital district misrepresented its service.

Updated: January 30, 2023 at 5:34 PM CST
Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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