August 21, 2014
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Although Seattle Children’s Hospital and Regence Blue Shield did not announce a settlement as expected today, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is optimistic the parties will close a deal soon.
“There’s a complex contracting arrangement to work out,” Kreidler said of Children’s Hospital and Regence. “It’s much better for them to resolve the contracting concerns themselves rather than through any kind of legal hearing. They will be miles ahead that way and consumers will benefit.”
A settlement would end the legal proceedings that Children’s Hospital initiated about a year ago when insurers Regence, Premera Blue Cross and Coordinated Care decided against including the hospital and research facility in their medical networks because of cost concerns.
Premera reached a deal on Aug. 18 to include Children’s Hospital in its network of medical providers effective Sept. 1. Coordinated Care decided to include Children’s Hospital in its network earlier this year.
Regence and Children’s Hospital agreed today during a brief hearing to put off further legal action until October.
“I am optimistic they will work out the contracting arrangements before October,” Kreidler said. “Consumers would benefit from having a leading facility like Children’s Hospital in the Regence network.”
Kreidler also praised the agreements that have others have worked out.
“Consumers are the winners with these agreements,” Kreidler said. “The agreements represent the successful innovation that the marketplace can achieve. All parties deserve congratulations for the effort they have made to ensure ready and affordable access to health care. If we expect innovations in the health-care industry, then we have to be willing to let the parties involved create them and not over-regulate them. I do not want to interfere with the market making the choices that keep costs down and offer more options for consumers.”
Kreidler also said the public and policy makers need to examine how medical research and health care are financed.
“Not only does Children’s Hospital provide invaluable specialty pediatric care, it’s also a leading research facility,” Kreidler said. “But it’s not fair to expect policyholders to pay higher health insurance rates to cover the costs of research and uncompensated care. As a state and a nation, we need to have a broader discussion on how we can further research and ensure that public programs like Medicaid pay market rates. Consumers should not foot the bill through their premiums.”
Kreidler said he will continue to assist insurers and medical providers to innovate in developing high-quality, accessible and affordable options for consumers in Washington.
“Holding down health insurance costs demands that some tough but informed choices be made,” Kreidler said. “We’ve seen that over the last year. Business plans for hospitals and insurers have changed from the old models to the benefit of consumers.”
Kreidler will soon announce approval of new health plans for 2015, which will result in more choices for consumers.
Kreidler’s office regulates the insurance industry in Washington.