HealthAlliance and Blue Cross settle dispute that disrupted coverage for tens of thousands

The parent company of the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley and a health-insurance provider have reached an agreement in principle to settle a 16-month dispute that has adversely affected tens of thousands of subscribers in the region. Officials from Westchester Medical and Blue Cross said they expected to have an agreement in place by September 1.

Subscribers to Empire BlueCross/BlueShield included almost 2800 county workers, retirees and their families and another 150 people covered by contract in Kingston, forced out of network by the standoff.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston and county executive Mike Hein, in separate press releases on Tuesday, spoke to an out-of-court preliminary memorandum of understanding, between BlueCross/BlueShield and Westchester Medical. The litigants had taken their case to state Supreme Court in Westchester County Center. The MOA would clear the way to finalize an agreement.


WMC Health hailed the agreement in “providing our members with access to quality healthcare at a market-competitive cost.” Michael Israel, president and CEO of WMC Health, cited Kingston-based HealthAlliance as “a vital part of the healthcare and economic fabric of Kingston and Ulster County.”

Cahill and Hein, Democrats who seldom agree, had each issued statements calling on the parties to settle.  Hein had called the situation “appalling” at one point last year. Cahill called it “devastating.”

In an apparent swipe at Hein (though not by name), Cahill said via a Tuesday press release: “The failure of other local leaders to fight aggressively for a resolution [as he said he had] undoubtedly extended the stalemate. I tried, often without result, to impress upon other local government officials the importance of joining me in this fight,” he said.

Cahill also detailed how he had reached out to state agencies to break the impasse, up to and including legislative remedies.

Said Hein, “Personally, over this entire process, Kevin Cahill has never spoken to me.”

Nor Hein to Cahill, apparently. “My contacts were directly with the hospitals and the insurers in advocating for [our] employees and other people of Ulster County,” Hein said.

Hein, in a letter released by county personnel director Sheree Cross announcing the pending agreement, was cited for speaking to Westchester Medical about the situation.