Blue Cross of NM buying Lovelace Health Plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico announced Monday that it is acquiring Lovelace Health Plan in a deal both companies said should give Lovelace’s 108,000 members access to a larger network of providers.

Health Care Services Corp., the nation’s largest nonprofit health insurance company, is buying Lovelace though its New Mexico Blue Cross division. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the sale is subject to regulatory approval.

Kurt Shipley, president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, promised a smooth transition for Lovelace members, saying the rates and terms in effect when the sale is finalized will remain through 2014. He expects it to be finalized by year’s end or early next year.

Shipley said Lovelace members will have more flexibility and “access to a lot more tools and opportunities than they have had in the past.” Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico currently has more than 400,000 members around the state.

The Lovelace plan is part of the Lovelace Health System, which includes hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and medical groups across the state.

“After careful consideration, Lovelace Health System made the strategic decision to focus on growing its primary, specialty and acute care services, providing greater access to high-quality and compassionate care throughout the region,” President and CEO Ron Stern said in a statement. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield is a proven, trusted and local partner, and we are confident this is the right option for our patients and health plan members.”

Under the agreement, Lovelace members will continue to have access to their current provider network. They will also be able to once again access providers of ABQ Health Partners, which until late last year provided health care services to thousands of Lovelace plan members. Lovelace had fought to retain those members after the two failed to reach an agreement to continue their partnership.

Shipley called it is a challenging time for health plan providers, particularly small independents.

The deal also gives Blue Cross a stronger relationship with Lovelace medical facilities that will benefit Blue Cross members in years to come, Shipley said.

Lovelace Health System consists of Lovelace Medical Center, Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital, Lovelace Women’s Hospital, Lovelace Westside Hospital, Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center, Lovelace Regional Hospital-Roswell, Lovelace Medical Group, Southwest Medical Associates and 11 retail pharmacy locations in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe.

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