Dennis Domrzalski , Reporter- Albuquerque Business First
Lovelace Health System and ABQ Health Partners are back together again.
The two companies had a public fallout in the fall of 2012 that resulted in the end of a five-year contract for ABQ HP doctors and other providers to treat Lovelace Health Plan members. But on Monday, LHS and ABQ HP said they had signed an agreement that will allow Lovelace patients and LHP members to immediately have access to ABQ HP’s 18 clinics and 250 providers, the two firms said in a news release.
“It takes effect immediately. We can start seeing patients tomorrow if they so chose,” ABQ HP President Misha Palecek  told Albuquerque Business First of the new agreement. He added that his firm and LHS will start contacting patients on Tuesday.
The deal had been in the works for “some time,” the firms said, and comes after LHP announced in November  that it was being sold to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico. As a result of the sale, which is expected to be approved by federal and state regulators by the end of the year, LHP members would have been able to see ABQ HP doctors because Blue Cross has a contract with the physicians’ group.
The new agreement “will allow for better continuity of care when the BCBSNM and Lovelace transaction closes,” Palecek said.
Failure to renew the contract last November cost ABQ HP about half of its annual revenue and around 100,000 patients, according to court testimony in a lawsuit that LHS filed in 2012 against ABQ HP.
Palecek said Monday that he doesn’t know how many of those patients will return to the group.
“We hope that as many of our former patients come back to us as possible, but we don’t know how that is going to shake out,” Palecek added. “We are excited to welcome them back.”
Earlier this year, LHP failed to be selected as one of the four insurers for New Mexico’s $4 billion Medicaid program. That failure meant that LHP lost 86,000 Medicaid patients and more than a third of its annual revenue.
Palecek added that the two firms continued to talk even after the high-profile fallout last year.
“Throughout the entire fallout there have been ongoing discussions. We have done a nice job in resolving our issues so we can continue to be strong partners going forward,” Palecek added.
Blue Cross will honor all LHP policies through their renewal dates in 2014, after which time members will be able to chose a Blue Cross plan or go with another insurer, BCBSNM PresidentKurt Shipley  said last month in announcing the purchase of LHP.
Stern has told Lovelace employees that LHP will stop selling policies on the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange once the sale to BCBSNM is approved.