BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — Update (7/31): UnitedHealthcare and UAB Health Systems have agreed in principle to a new multi-year relationship.
The agreement will allow Alabama residents enrolled in UnitedHealthcare commercial and Medicare Advantage health plans to have access to UAB facilities and physicians.
Original (7/31): On Wednesday, the contract between UAB Health System and United Healthcare ended, leaving anyone who had United Healthcare as their insurance to have to pay out-of-network fees if they go to UAB, with the exception of the emergency room.
UAB CEO Will Ferniany said they’ve tried negotiating with United Health but calls them an “aggressive company” that is putting “profit over the patients”.
UAB officials said they offered United Healthcare better rates than their last contract but were asking for rates too low. United Healthcare claims UAB costs significantly more for their services compared to other hospitals in the state and neighboring state hospitals.
In 2005, United Health terminated their contract with UAB and returned in 2011.
The terminated partnership will affect tens of thousands of patients who go to UAB or visit a doctor that is under UAB. This includes Medical West, specific doctors at Children’s Hospital, doctors throughout the whole state, and more locations.
Ferniany said if you come to UAB for trauma, they can file a single case contract, but it’s not guaranteed that United Healthcare will accept it.
“It’s very upsetting to me that our patients are being put through this and we’re doing everything we can at UAB, everything we can, to settle this. If you’re a patient, lets say you got treated for cancer here and now get all your care here, think how upsetting that would be that you would have to change all your care. That is not acceptable,” Ferniany said.
United Health released this statement on the now-defunct partnership: “UAB Hospital charges significantly more than other hospitals across the state for common services and tests. While we recognize and appreciate some of the services the UAB Health System provides are unique and more costly as an academic medical center, the health system’s high costs are simply unsustainable for the employer group customers and members we serve throughout Alabama.”
There have been no announcements on any negotiations being finalized.