A rally was held June 21 at South Nassau Communities...

A rally was held June 21 at South Nassau Communities Hospital by BlueCross members worried about losing coverage. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Empire BlueCross BlueShield and South Nassau Communities Hospital have reached a contract that will keep the hospital, along with doctors in its system, in the insurer’s network, the hospital said on Friday.

Financial terms of the 30-month deal were not disclosed.

“We are thankful for the support and patience we received throughout the negotiations from our patients, staff members and civic, elected and business leaders,“ the hospital said in a statement.

A representative for Empire BlueCross BlueShield confirmed that an agreement had been reached.

The contract between the Oceanside-based hospital and Empire BlueCross expired on May 1. If a deal  had not been reached after a 60-day cooling-off period, Empire BlueCross patients receiving nonemergency care beginning July 1 would have been forced to find alternative means of care or pay out-of-network prices.

South Nassau said earlier this month that it reached deals with BlueCross competitors Cigna and UnitedHealthcare that provide it with “adequate reimbursement for the hospital’s services. BlueCross refuses to do so.”

The BlueCross deal disclosed Friday takes a weight off the shoulders of local patients, said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).

“People don’t always realize how important access is until it gets threatened,” Kaminsky said. “I spoke to a lot of people who have many ailments who couldn’t imagine losing this access, so this is a wonderful turn of events.”

South Nassau is in the process of joining the much larger Mount Sinai Health System, but final approval on that deal won’t take place until later this year, so South Nassau negotiated a stand-alone deal with BlueCross.

Hospitals regionally and nationally have joined larger health systems, in part, because being part of a larger network gives them stronger negotiating power. In the last year locally, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson joined Northwell Health, while Southampton Hospital joined Stony Brook Medicine.

Experts say insurers and hospitals have been taking tougher negotiating stands as profit margins get thinner in both industries.

“But in the end, the hospital and the health insurer need each other, so after the threatening letters, and a long negotiation, they figure it out,” Paul Keckley, a health care analyst in Washington, D.C., and Nashville, said earlier this month.

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