CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross® BlueShield® of Tennessee and Wellmont Health System have signed an 18-month contract extension through mid-2015.

The agreement maintains access to care at all Wellmont hospitals for BlueCross members covered through Blue Networks P and S, the health plan’s two largest provider networks. Access for members covered through BlueCare, TennCareSelect and BlueAdvantageSM continues under current and separate agreements between the organizations.

“We reached our new agreement with Wellmont in a very short time by focusing on our mutual goal of keeping health care affordable. Wellmont has proven itself to be a leader in providing high quality, low cost care in the Tri-Cities,” said JD Hickey, executive vice president and COO for BlueCross. “We know our members in the region will be pleased to keep Wellmont facilities as a choice for their care.”

Denny DeNarvaez, Wellmont’s president and CEO, said this agreement continues a productive relationship that will greatly benefit patients. She said Wellmont is well-positioned to care for patients in the region as an in-network provider with BlueCross.

"We have outstanding caregivers in our hospitals, but we also have an abundant supply of medical professionals in our outpatient settings to meet a growing trend," DeNarvaez said. "In Johnson City, for example, our expert physicians and other caregivers provide superior cardiology, oncology, pulmonology, breast care, family medicine and urgent care services close to home. We will soon add obstetrics and gynecology services.”

"Patients can also rely on Wellmont for excellent care at other locations throughout the region, reflecting our commitment to serve a broad population," DeNarvaez added.

Wellmont’s Tennessee facilities covered in the new agreement include:

• Holston Valley Medical Center

• Bristol Regional Medical Center

• Takoma Regional Hospital

• Hawkins County Memorial Hospital

• Hancock County Hospital

Wellmont also has three hospitals and multiple outpatient facilities in Virginia that remain in network with other BlueCross BlueShield plans.

Recently, two Wellmont Health System hospitals have been recognized for exceptional patient outcomes and cost efficiencies by BlueCross.

Holston Valley Medical Center and Bristol Regional Medical Center have been named a Blue Distinction Center+ for Knee and Hip ReplacementSM and a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery®.

Blue Distinction Centers+ meet national criteria for quality care and have a cost structure that addresses consumers’ need for affordable health care. Blue Distinction Centers identify hospitals that outperform peer facilities in safety and quality.

For more information about Wellmont facilities and services, please visit www.wellmont.org.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.