Northwest Medical Center

Northwest Medical Center has been at odds with UnitedHealthcare since March. The two reached an agreement Saturday.

Northwest Healthcare is once again an in-network provider for UnitedHealthcare patients.

In a joint news release sent out at 2 p.m. today, both entities said they had reached a new, three-year contract agreement that will keep all Northwest Healthcare facilities, urgent care locations and physicians in UnitedHealthcare's network.

A standoff between the two for-profit companies severed the contract May 1. But the new agreement is effective immediately, officials said and retroactive. Patients who received care at Northwest during the out-of-network period since last Monday will be processed as in-network.

Health plan members enrolled in UnitedHealthcare individual, employer-sponsored (commercial), Medicare Advantage and AHCCCS Managed Medicaid health plans will have continued in-network access to Northwest Medical Center, Oro Valley Hospital, Northwest Emergency Center Vail, Northwest Allied Physicians, Desert Cardiology, Heart Center of Southern Arizona, Northwest Heart & Vascular, Northwest Urgent Care, Northwest Tucson Surgery Center, Tucson Surgery Center, Center for Pain Management, and other locations.

Northwest Healthcare is owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems.

"Our community is the real beneficiary because the agreement ensures they continue to have the freedom to choose their provider without any further disruption," Northwest CEO Kevin Stockton said in a prepared statement.

Officials with both companies thanked the public for their support and patience. Northwest Healthcare first sent out letters to affected patients on March 2, and many have been getting increasingly anxious about losing their providers ever since.

On May 1, when both sides announced they hadn't reached a resolution, patients were left looking for alternatives, including providers in other parts of Tucson and in some cases, a new health insurance company.

"We understand that these last few weeks have been difficult for people in northwest Tucson who rely on the Northwest system for their medical needs. We are honored to continue supporting these members and the more than two million people across Arizona who depend on us for access to quality, cost- effective health care," UnitedHealthcare of Arizona CEO Dave Allazetta said.

The new contract is focused on value-based performance and quality of care, similar to Northwest Healthcare’s contracts with other large health insurers in the area, officials on both sides of the agreement said.

The agreement comes just as UnitedHealthcare patients of Northwest Healthcare are receiving letters telling them how to proceed now that Northwest is out-of-network. Patients can disregard those letters now.

Estimates of affected patients ranged from 46,000 to 60,000 — critical enough that Tucson's largest physician group weighed in on the dispute and called for both sides to do the, "moral and ethical thing," and reach a truce.

Contact health reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@tucson.com

Twitter: @stephanieinnes