HOUSTON - UnitedHealthcare and Houston Methodist Hospital may be parting ways, which would affect tens of thousands of Houstonians. What does this mean for you if you are covered by United Healthcare?
Well, the insurance provider has issued a termination notice to Houston Methodist Hospital because the two haven’t been able to agree on a new contract. Each is accusing the other of basically being greedy.
"You can’t make it about cost when it’s about the health of the people you love,” says Houstonian Anna Coffey.
If the 21-year relationship between UnitedHealthcare and Houston Methodist Hospital does come to an end, the split would leave 100,000 Houstonians choosing sides.
"I’ll change insurance companies before I change hospitals,” adds Coffey.
As it stands now, come December 31, 2019 at midnight, Houston Methodist Hospital will no longer be in-network for individuals with a UnitedHealthcare plan, which could cost patients significantly more money. This comes after United told Methodist to decrease healthcare costs or get dropped. Methodist says “We could not accept those terms and still provide the best possible care to the community”.
"I’ve been using Methodist Hospital for the last 20 years. I even brought my father to Methodist Hospital and they actually extended his life by three years when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” explains Coffey who is the CEO at The Women's Home Houston.
She chose to switch her 53 employees to UnitedHealthcare in August.
"The first question I asked was 'is Methodist in-network' and I was told yes," she said.
UnitedHealthcare says Methodist is 36% more expensive than four of the nation's top five hospitals and accuses Methodist of driving up the cost of health care.
”I am getting about 25 to 30 calls a day,” says Texas insurance agent Elizabeth Smith.
This is open enrollment season. Smith is being bombarded with questions especially by senior citizens.
"Most of them have been patients for 25 to 30 years and they don’t like change," she said.
If United and Methodist don’t reach an agreement, Houston Methodist Hospitals will be out of network January 1, 2020, and Methodist doctors will be out of network beginning April 1, 2020. However, UnitedHealthcare told me the company is still negotiating with Houston Methodist.
If you are pregnant, covered by United Healthcare, and scheduled to deliver your baby at Methodist next year, talk with your doctor about a special exception that may be available.