University physicians could be off-grid for UnitedHealthcare
Doctors at the university hospital could be out of network with UnitedHealthcare after talks about the money and the length of the contract break down, officials said. But the insurance company insists the contract with the doctors continues for several months and there is now a dispute over when the relationship will end.
University CEO Jim Davis told his board of directors that the doctors employed at the hospital, which include many of its cardiologists and those who provide inpatient services and cover prompt care, do ‘will no longer have a contract with UnitedHealthcare on July 1 and will be offline. Because it is a separate contract, the hospital will still be part of the network, he said.
“It’s a big deal for these patients,” said Davis, who are seen at the University. “It’s a big dust going on right now.”
But a spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare said the contract with doctors runs until November 30 and its members can continue to see these doctors in the network until then.
“We are actively negotiating with University Health with a view to renewing our contract and remain committed to continuing discussions,” spokesman Cole Manbeck said in a statement Friday afternoon. University officials reviewing the long-standing contract say it now appears to be more ambiguous than initially appeared, so it’s unclear whether the split would happen next week or later, but UmitedHealthcare will continue to treat them as if they were part of the network.
Part of the problem is the payments and the length of the new contract, Davis said. UnitedHealthcare wants a three-year contract, but the university only wants a one-year contract. The university is currently in merger talks with Piedmont Healthcare. This process is going smoothly and the deal is expected to be submitted to Georgia’s attorney general for approval shortly, possibly as early as August, Davis said.
Talks have been going on for six months and the university is still open to discussing terms with UnitedHealthcare, he said.
“We’re always ready to work with people,” Davis said. “We are not ready to be intimidated by people.”
The university is now sending letters to affected patients informing them of the conflict, but that they should continue to see their doctors as they normally would.
UnitedHealthcare is part of the Georgia state health benefit plan and its retirees, and it would also affect those who have Medicare Advantage through the insurer, Davis confirmed.
“It’s a big deal,” board member Sanford Lloyd said.
“You’re talking about all government employees,” said board member Terry Elam.
“It’s a bunch of people,” Davis said, but it’s too early to know what kind of financial impact this would have on the hospital.