In a last-minute agreement, Vermont’s largest health care provider and the nation’s largest health insurance company will extend their current contract until the end of the year, preserving access to in-network coverage for about 2,600 Vermonters and New Yorkers.
“That’s absolutely wonderful news,” said Eliza Graves, who had been concerned about losing access to her oncologist at University of Vermont Medical Center.
“Of course I hope that they both will work together to find a longterm solution,” Graves added in an email. Insured through her husband’s employer, she is limited to UnitedHealthcare.
The health insurer had announced plans to drop UVM Health Network from its network effective April 1 in Vermont and June 1 in New York because the two sides could not agree on how much the insurance company should reimburse UVM’s hospitals and doctors for the health care they provide patients. The result would have been significant cost increases for UVM Health Network patients.
Under the agreement announced Friday, UVM Health Network will remain in-network with UnitedHealthcare for commercial health insurance plans through 2023.
Now, patients who get their health care from UVM Health Network will have until the end of the year to find an alternative to UnitedHealthcare.
Medicare Advantage, Managed Medicaid, VA Community Health Network, United Medicare Supplement plans and United Behavioral Healthcare plans were never affected by the dispute — only commercial plans offered by employers or taken by individuals.
“We’re glad that United has agreed to extend this coverage for the remainder of 2023 to help give our patients the time they need,” Dr. Sunny Eappen, president and CEO of the UVM Health Network, said in a statement. “This situation has caused much stress and anxiety for our patients and we hope this extension helps to ease some pressure in the face of a frustrating situation.”
In a press release, UVM Health Network said the extension of the agreement means it will not receive increased reimbursements from UnitedHealthcare, which will have a negative impact on its finances. The health care provider reported $90 million in losses in 2022.
UnitedHealthcare reported a $14.4 billion profit for 2022.
UVM Health Network includes UVM Medical Center, Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, Porter Medical Center in Middlebury, and three hospitals in New York: Alice Hyde Medical Center, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
“Our top priority is ensuring people have access to the care they need,” said Tim Archer, chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare in Vermont. “This extension ensures the people and families we serve continued access to UVMHN while we continue our good-faith efforts to reach a long-term contract with UVMHN that is affordable for Vermonters, New Yorkers and employers.”
But UVM Health Network was not optimistic that a new contract would be signed covering patients beyond the end of this year.
“Based on conversations with United to date it is not likely we will continue to be in-network in the 2024 plan year, despite our best efforts to come to a fair agreement,” UVM Health Network said in a press release.
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