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Staff File Photo / CHI Memorial's North Tower building offers an impressive facade.

Imagine someone anticipating a colonoscopy after symptoms appeared or a mammogram scheduled after finding a lump, and then learning the tests wouldn't be covered by their health insurance.

It's enough to make the sick sicker.

But that's what thousands of Chattanooga area residents were facing before an agreement was announced over the weekend between BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and CHI Memorial Health System, its medical group and the Chattanooga Heart Institute.

The new three-year agreement allows those covered by BlueCross to continue using the services of the health system on an in-network basis. If an agreement had not been reached before today, patients would have been forced to pay higher, out-of-network charges or find new doctors.

No details were released on the new contract.

We imagine thousands of people breathed sighs of relief Monday when they heard the news, and we're grateful the two sides finally did what their customers expected them to do.

Officials earlier said the two sides had been working on a new agreement since November of 2020. But CHI Memorial initiated a contract termination in July with only a 60-day notice.

Both sides said the impasse occurred because both maintained the reimbursement rates the other side was requesting were unacceptable. BlueCross said it had made five offers with rate increases to CHI Memorial, but the hospital system rejected them all. CHI Memorial said it had offered the insurer "a compromise agreement."

This type of standoff has occurred at least half a dozen times between Chattanooga hospitals and insurers over the past two decades. We hope both sides better understand the risk and worry patients must endure and vow not to allow it to happen again.

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