Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the parent company of Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals announced Thursday that they have renewed their contracts, avoiding the possibility that the hospitals would leave the insurer’s network.

The agreement takes effect Jan. 1. Anthem and the hospitals’ parent company, Eastern Connecticut Health Network, did not release contract details, but said in a joint press release that the hospitals would participate in Anthem’s Quality-In-Sights: Hospital Incentive Program, which measures and helps improve health care quality and patient safety.

Anthem notified members earlier this month that its contracts with the hospitals were expiring at the end of the year and that if an agreement was not reached, patients who get care at the Manchester and Vernon hospitals would have to pay higher out-of-network rates.

Although that was avoided, ECHN did sever ties in October with UnitedHealthcare and Oxford Health Plans after they failed to reach an agreement on new contracts. Patients covered by those plans must pay out-of-network rates to use the hospitals.

State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, who has called on ECHN and the insurers to reach agreements, praised the deal between the hospital parent company and Anthem. She also requested that Anthem notify its members that a deal had been reached, to allay any fears among consumers.

“Anthem has indicated that it will send out letters to its enrollees next week. That is the right action,” Veltri said in a statement Thursday. “I recommend that ECHN and affiliated providers also put out some communication to their patients about the resolution of the contract to ensure the maximum number of consumers and potential Anthem consumers are informed of the new agreement.”

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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