Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE: LH) announced yesterday that it had executed a multi-year clinical laboratory services contract renewal with CIGNA HealthCare (NYSE: CI). An important facet of the renewal, noted in LabCorp’s press release, is that “LabCorp will no longer be contractually restricted from marketing that the Company is a fully participating, in-network provider to CIGNA HealthCare for all services in all major markets.”

“This agreement is important because we will no longer be prohibited from marketing to doctors and patients that we are a participating, in-network provider to all CIGNA HealthCare members and plans in all major markets,” said David P. King, President and Chief Executive Officer of LabCorp. “We welcome the opportunity to compete for CIGNA HealthCare business on a level playing field with all other contracted laboratories. Of course, CIGNA HealthCare’s participating physicians may continue to send all of their work to LabCorp, giving choice to those physicians who prefer using a single high-quality, full-service laboratory.”

What Dark Daily finds notable about this contract renewal is that it is not exclusive to LabCorp, so Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (NYSE: DGX) continues to be a provider for CIGNA HealthCare. CIGNA HealthCare membership grew by 3% in 2006, to 9.4 million beneficiaries. It is experiencing rapid growth in consumer-directed healthcare plans (CDHPs), with enrollment in CDHPS growing from 100,000 members in 2005 to over 250,000 in 2006, according to Cigna’s 2006 Annual Report. Cigna is also greatly expanding its membership outside of the United States. This is another example of how healthcare is globalizing.

This is also the first time since last fall that a national health insurer, when renewing national contracts for laboratory services, has not entered into an exclusive agreement with one laboratory company. In October 2006, United Healthcare (NYSE: UNH) granted an exclusive national contract to LabCorp. In May of this year Aetna (NYSE: AET) selected Quest Diagnostics to be its exclusive national laboratory provider. At the end of 2006, UnitedHealth and Aetna had 26 million and 15.4 million members, respectively.

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