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BLOOMINGTON — The CEO of OSF HealthCare's Eastern Region is optimistic that OSF and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will resolve their contract dispute by Jan. 1.

"Negotiations are active," Chad Boore told The Pantagraph on Wednesday. "I think we are making good progress.

"I believe we will reach resolution," Boore continued. "If we don't by the end of the year, we will work with our patients to meet their health care needs, with or without Blue Cross."

But Boore added, "There is an interest on the part of both parties to come to a resolution."

Later on Wednesday, Blue Cross Blue Shield spokeswoman Colleen Miller said, "We are continuing discussions with OSF (with) the goal of reaching an agreement that benefits our members and customers."

OSF revealed a month ago that, unless the two organizations came to an agreement, most OSF Illinois hospitals would no longer participate in the Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO network. The hospitals include OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, OSF HealthCare Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac, OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria and OSF HealthCare Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is the largest commercial health insurer in Illinois. If the dispute isn't resolved, the health care of thousands of Central Illinoisans could be impacted. Blue Cross members would still have access to OSF hospitals but would pay out-of-network rates, OSF media relations coordinator Shelli Dankoff has said.

Outpatient services at non-hospital OSF facilities — including doctors' offices and clinics — wouldn't be affected.

But inpatient services and in-hospital outpatient services, including rehabilitation, ambulatory surgery, diagnostic testing, audiology and sleep studies, would be affected and out-of-network rates would apply.

Blue Cross wants to add other hospitals to its network, including hospitals that compete with OSF. OSF responded that it would accept a larger network but couldn't afford to provide Blue Cross with the same reduced rates.

Blue Cross responded by announcing plans to remove larger OSF hospitals in Peoria, Galesburg and Rockford from its network. OSF countered by terminating its Blue Cross agreements, effective Jan. 1, with most of its other hospitals, arguing that the three larger hospitals accept transfers from other OSF hospitals.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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