Altoona Regional Health System and Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield have signed a new three-year agreement, the hospital system announced Wednesday.
The old five-year contract expired after June 30, although the two sides extended it for a month in early July, thereby extending the run-out provision that provided coverage for an additional half year.
Neither side gave details of the new deal, which will continue to make the hospital available for Highmark subscribers, although both sides spoke in generalities.
"We achieved the goal of a delicate balance: fairly reimbursing the hospital, while also having an agreement that gives us the opportunity to maintain competitive and affordable coverage," Highmark spokesman Michael Weinstein said.
"The contract provides unique opportunities and commitment from both parties to work together ... to ensure access to affordable, quality care," Altoona Regional spokeswoman Anne Stoltz said in a written statement.
The two sides negotiated their way to "common ground and a mutually acceptable solution," Weinstein said.
"In these delicate times of health care," it's not unusual to require extended negotiations to do so, he said. The sides began negotiating several months before the old contract expired.
Weinstein didn't answer directly when asked whether the new deal will contribute to an increase in health care costs in the area but cited "many factors" that have driven costs up, including new technology, increased utilization of services, malpractice insurance, aging of the population and medical inflation.
Highmark has about 35,000 subscribers in Blair County.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.