(News-Press.com) - A Medicare Advantage plan that covers 35,000 beneficiaries in Southwest Florida is dropping at least 300 doctors and hard-to-find medical specialists from its Southwest Florida network, a move that beneficiaries and affected physicians say may make it difficult to find needed medical providers.
The AARP/Medicare Complete plan offered through United Healthcare notified patients last month in advance of the Oct. 15 start of the Medicare enrllment period. In the letters, and in subsequent interviews with The News-Press, the company said reduced government funding of such plans was a contributing factor.
"We're looking at a more focused network of physicians, especially to deal with some of the financial pressures that have come down and cutbacks, quite honestly, in the Medicare Advantage program and other government-sponsored programs," said spokesman Tyler Mason.
The changes do not apply to United Healthcare's commercial, Medicaid and Medicare supplement plans, according to the company.
United Healthcare would not say how many providers it will remove from plans in 2014, nor would it provide the entire list of practices affected.
The Lee County Medical Society has counted at least 100 affected doctors in Lee and another 200 in neighboring Collier and Charlotte counties, said Executive Director Ann Wilke.
Wilke advises all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries to review their plans. Open enrollment ends Dec. 7.
Cape Coral resident Joseph Ryan said his 92-year-old mother will lose access to her regular dermatologist, orthopedist and gastroenterologist, among others. He's heard similar stories involving scores of doctors from others.
"That's an awful lot of doctors and an awful lot of people who are going to have to figure out what to do in January," Ryan said. "It's not just one or two doctors."
Patients of Dr. Mark Gorovoy, a south Fort Myers ophthalmologist and corneal transplant specialist, were told in a Sept. 24 letter. Gorovoy said he believed that United Healthcare was using controversy over health as an excuse to increase its bottom line.