In a letter dated October 2, 2013, the nation’s largest healthcare company informed its doctors in some states — mostly those on the Medicare Advantage network — that they would be terminated. The news came sudden, and quite understandably so, upset many of the doctors who received the termination notice.
Connecticut is one of those states where physicians were affected, and the Connecticut State Medical Society released a press statement condemning the move: “The physicians received letters from United informing them that they had been “terminated without cause,” effective February 1, 2014. Many physicians received more than one letter, and in a phone conference UnitedHealthcare officials acknowledged that they were unsure as to exactly how many physicians were affected by the decision. They could not confirm whether all affected physicians had received the notice, which was sent via bulk mail; they also noted that some physicians who received letters may still be in the UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage network “. More importantly, the president of the Connecticut Medical Society suspected the timing of the termination. “This comes less than two weeks before Medicare’s Open Enrollment period—how can seniors make informed decisions when their own doctors don’t even know whether they’re in the United network?”
The healthcare group reported 2013 third-quarter earnings of $1.6 billion on revenue of $30.6 billion. Despite that, United defended the terminations and said it would continue to offer “broad choices” and “an expansive Medicaid Advantage network”.
But with this recent termination notice, both primary care physicians and specialty physicians are affected by United’s decision. United’s decision is seen as disruption to services for patients who have established long-term patient relationships with their doctors for years.
On October 15, United Healthcare announced it had reached an agreement with the AARP to offer “a portfolio of AARP-branded products” including Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and other Medicare supplements through the year 2020. Regardless, this recent move by UnitedHealthcare will be seen by some (or many) Americans as a result of the many changes brought about by President Obama’s healthcare reforms. Time will only tell which healthcare provider pulls the trigger next.