Several hundred people in the Owensboro area depend on WellCare of Kentucky for their medical insurance.

And they were worried a year ago when Owensboro Health posted notices that it would no longer participate with WellCare after April 1.

But negotiations continued and the deadline was extended.

And Tuesday, the two parties announced that they had signed an agreement for OH to continue providing in-network coverage to WellCare's Medicaid and Medicare Advantage members.

"We thought it was important to get this information out quickly," Brian Hamby, OH's director of marketing and public relations, said Tuesday. "The enrollment period for Medicare and Medicaid has started. And we want people to know that this agreement has been locked in for the long term."

OH serves nearly 300,000 people in western Kentucky and southern Indiana.

And WellCare is Kentucky's largest Medicaid managed care provider.

Thirty-eight percent of Medicaid enrollees in this area use WellCare, the announcement said.

That represents hundreds of people, Hamby said.

"It's extremely important that we do right for all those people," he said.

That's why negotiations continued until the contract was signed, Hamby said.

The agreement was reached in principle in August, he said.

And the final details were ironed out this week.

Ben Orris, COO for WellCare of Kentucky, said in a news release, "This agreement enables WellCare to continue providing our members in Kentucky with access to high-quality care and services to help them live better, healthier lives."

The agreement covers Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital and the Owensboro Health Medical Group, which has more than 200 providers in more than 20 locations.

WellCare said that as of Sept. 30, it was serving 438,000 Medicaid members, 14,000 Medicare Advantage plan members and 33,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Kentucky.

Nationally, the Florida-based company was serving 6.4 million people on that date, it said.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301,

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