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Group Health renews hospital pact

Contract guarantees patients will go to Providence facilities

Group Health Cooperative has renewed its contract to send all of its Spokane patients in need of hospitalization to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital.

The contract grants exclusivity to Providence at a time of sharpened competition with Deaconess Medical Center.

While Group Health patients with “choice” plans can receive care anywhere, the out-of-pocket costs in the form of co-pays and cost shares will be higher, according to a joint new release issued by Providence and Group Health.

Securing contracts for patients has become more important for Providence, the region’s largest hospital system, after the announcement this fall that Rockwood Clinic intends to join Deaconess Medical Center and form an integrated health care system.

The deal would represent a significant shift for all parties. Rockwood is the region’s largest medical clinic with more than 160,000 patient visits a year. It currently sends 90 percent of its patients needing hospital care to Sacred Heart and Holy Family, and just 10 percent to Deaconess.

Those numbers would likely flip-flop within five years if Rockwood’s 77 physician owners vote Wednesday to approve the proposed buyout by Deaconess owner Community Health Systems Inc. Financial terms of the buyout have not been released.

It makes locking up Group Health for another year an important development for Providence.

Providence and Group Health have had contracts for decades in Washington cities such as Everett, Olympia, Centralia, Walla Walla and Spokane.

“This contract reaffirms our commitment and assures our patients in Spokane can continue to receive great care and service at Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family,” said Robert O’Brien, executive vice president of the Health Plan Division at Group Health.

As Group Health renews its contracts with Providence, it also has a contract with Rockwood that allows its members to see Rockwood doctors without financial penalties as part of an “in-the-network” arrangement.

Group Health and Rockwood administrators have said those relationships are not expected to change if Rockwood doctors vote to join Deaconess.

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