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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Mary Washington Healthcare may be near deal with Anthem

Dr. Steven Mussey's cartoon appeared in the paper Jan. 22.

The contract dispute between Mary Washington Healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield may be nearing an end.

A Mary Washington official said Friday that a negotiating session involving the top executives of the two companies appears to have moved the sides closer to an agreement.

“There has been progress made in the negotiation,” said Eric Fletcher, senior vice president for marketing and communications for Mary Washington.

“We’re very optimistic that we can have something finalized very soon, in the next week or so,” Fletcher said.

The optimism follows a meeting last week between Fred Rankin, president and chief executive officer of Mary Washington, and Burke King, president of Anthem in Virginia. The two met Wednesday in Richmond, Fletcher said.

“Good progress was made,” he said.

An Anthem official declined comment Friday when asked about a possible breakthrough.

“Discussions have occurred, and I’m just going to leave it at that,” said Scott Golden, Anthem spokesman.

A settlement would mean that the region’s largest health care company is once again a provider in the state’s largest health insurance network.

Mary Washington withdrew from that network on Jan. 1. The move affected Mary Washington Hospital, Stafford Hospital, Snowden at Fredericksburg and the Fredericksburg Ambulatory Surgery Center.

Because of the split, Anthem’s 77,000 Fredericksburg-area customers have been wrestling with questions of coverage and cost.

In a letter to both Rankin and King, Beverly Cameron, Fredericksburg city manager, said the contract dispute was creating “great concern and anxiety in our community.”

Cameron wrote to the two executives on Jan. 12, saying  that he wasn’t taking sides in dispute. But he added that many city residents are Anthem customers, as are city employees.

He said: “City Council directed me to write to you and express our profound concern over the impasse, and to urge both parties to return to the negotiating table and come to an agreement as soon as possible.”

(Cameron’s letter can be seen here.)