Clearwater, Florida - Hospital and doctor loyalty is coming into play in the contract dispute between BayCare Health System and UnitedHealthcare Insurance.
Jerry May, on his way to a doctor's appointment Monday, changed his United Medicare coverage, because he likes Morton Plant Hospital. "My wife had a knee operation and I had a retina operation there, so we've been there a few times," said the 85-year-old Clearwater resident.
Doctors affiliated with BayCare have been sending out letters informing patients that their relationship with United comes to an end on November 26. United is also urging its clients to seek out new doctors before that deadline.
And while this stalemate may involve two healthcare giants, the little guy is stuck with all the hassles- forced to either change doctors, or change insurance.
At Sonnenberg Insurance in Largo, a Florida Blue representative, the phones are ringing off the hook- mostly from seniors wanting to change Medicare plans so they can continue seeing their same doctors.
"That's the biggest issue we see," says sales agent Cindy Perry. "These people are seniors. They're used to going to the people they want to see; they have a relationship and they want to maintain that."
And changing insurance may even be an option for people with employer-sponsored plans.
Jack Sonnenberg says it's not unusual for a spouse and children to get a better deal elsewhere. "It's almost 100% of the time, we can save a considerable amount of money. I've even had the employee leave group coverage," says Sonnenberg, who's sold insurance in Pinellas for 40 years.
No one knows whether the November 26 deadline will come and go without a resolution, so the only insurance for consumers on making a smooth transition, is to do their homework on doctor and insurance options now.
BayCare issued this written statement on Monday:
"Effective Nov. 26, 2012, BayCare's hospitals, facilities, homecare and laboratories will no longer be a participating provider in United's provider network for Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and commercial products.
Further, on Oct. 24, 2012, United terminated BayCare physician groups from participation in United's commercial and Medicaid networks, effective Nov. 26, 2012.
There has been no progress in negotiations since October 12, 2012, thus we are not hopeful we will reach an agreement prior to November 26.
Please know that for an emergency medical condition, United's customers can still access care at BayCare's hospital emergency departments.
As of November 26, 2012, those United customers that have out-of-network benefits or qualify to be covered by a continuity of care provision can continue to access BayCare facilities and physicians for non-emergent services.
Patients need to contact United to determine their continuity of care provisions. For more information, patients can go to BayCare.org/healthplans."
-BayCare Health System
The attached document is a BayCare and UnitedHealthcare Network Fact Sheet.