The dispute between Piedmont Healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia is set to come to an end. Gov. Nathan Deal announced April 17 the two sides have come to an agreement on a new contract.

The accord thus met Deal’s deadline of close of business Tuesday, after which the state would have been forced, in his words, “to initiate executive action.”

“This deal ensures no interruption of coverage for Georgians using Piedmont Healthcare as a provider during the contract dispute,’’ the governor said in a Tweet.

The former contract between the insurer and healthcare system, which operates its flagship Piedmont Hospital in Buckhead, expired April 1 after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations for a new one. Since then, Piedmont hospitals and doctors have been out of network to Blue Cross members.

The new contract, a three-year deal, will begin June 1. But the two parties also agreed to reactivate the former contract, which expired April 1, and extend it until the date the new agreement kicks in. And Anthem Blue Cross patients who use Piedmont hospitals or doctors will pay in-network rates during that interim period.

In other words, ultimately no patient will face out-of-network costs because of the dispute.

The contract showdown pitted the state’s biggest insurer against a fast-growing health care system that now has 11 hospitals. But it also involved a large segment of state workers, and that had Georgia officials especially concerned.

More than 570,000 state and University System employees and family members have Blue Cross as their insurer, and many of them go to Piedmont physicians and facilities. Piedmont has estimated that overall, 500,000 Georgians have been affected by the contract cutoff.

The governor has been involved since before the former contract expired. He urged the two sides to come to an agreement before the contract lapsed, and afterward he announced that the state government and the University System of Georgia would absorb out-of-network costs for their employees for up to 30 days to reduce their potential financial burden.

– This story includes reporting published by Georgia Health News.

Andy Miller | Georgia Health News

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News, a nonprofit, independent news organization devoted to covering healthcare in the state.