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'My Pen Is Ready': Saint Francis CEO Says They Want To Stay In Blue Cross Network

Chris Polansky
Saint Francis Health System President and CEO Jake Henry Jr. (left) and ASL interpreter Glenna Cooper at a COVID-19 press briefing at Tulsa City Hall on Oct. 27, 2020.

After health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma announced Wednesday that Saint Francis Health System would be leaving its network because of failed contract negotiations, Saint Francis issued a news release Friday saying they wish to resume talks.

In a statement, Jake Henry Jr., president and CEO of SFHS, said the two entities had been negotiating since January and reached an agreement on the afternoon of April 30th, the final day of the previous contract.

"While waiting for the contract, BlueCross unexpectedly sent new terms at 10:02 p.m. on Friday night with provisions that had not been agreed on earlier. The added terms materially changed the agreement. It wasn't a contract that I could sign--it wasn't what we agreed to just a few hours earlier," Henry said.

"I am still ready to sign the contract I agreed to that afternoon. Saint Francis Health System is ready to put the issue to rest and move forward," Henry said. "We’ve all been through a lot this past year. Our patients, healthcare workers and the community have had enough to worry about related to their health and wellness. We’re just a few signatures away from being able to put this behind us...my pen is ready.”

Saint Francis had declined to comment on the matter before Henry's statement.

In response, BCBSOK said Henry was not telling the truth in characterizing how events transpired.

"On April 30, Saint Francis declined our last two offers and would not agree to a short-term extension to continue negotiations with no disruption in service to our members. Unfortunately, Saint Francis’ characterization of our negotiations are not accurate," the insurer said in a statement.

“We want to come to an agreement with Saint Francis. We tried for many months with that goal in mind, but we work for our members. It’s their premium dollars that they’ve entrusted us with. We cannot sign an agreement that could put them in financial harm. When Saint Francis comes to the table with a reasonable agreement that ensures our members are protected from unexpected future costs, we’ll sign,“ said Rick Kelly, BCBSOK Vice President of Health Care Delivery, Provider Network Operations, in the same statement.

BCBSOK said Wednesday they were in the process of informing 59,000 member households that their Saint Francis providers would no longer be in-network effective July 29th.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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