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Carolinas HealthCare, UnitedHealthcare forge new deal

Carolinas HealthCare System and UnitedHealthcare have struck a new deal that keeps the hospital system’s Charlotte-area patients and physicians on the insurance provider’s coverage plans – more than a month after negotiations soured and resulted in their decade-long contract expiring.
Carolinas HealthCare System and UnitedHealthcare have struck a new deal that keeps the hospital system’s Charlotte-area patients and physicians on the insurance provider’s coverage plans – more than a month after negotiations soured and resulted in their decade-long contract expiring. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Carolinas HealthCare System and UnitedHealthcare have forged a new contract that keeps the hospital system’s Charlotte-area patients and physicians on the insurance provider’s coverage plans – nearly two months after negotiations soured and resulted in their decade-long contract expiring.

The new contract ensures that services will continue for enrollees in UnitedHealthcare’s employer-sponsored and Medicare plans who seek care at Charlotte-area Carolinas HealthCare System hospitals and doctors offices, according to a joint news release.

The contract was finalized over the weekend, said UnitedHealthcare spokeswoman Tracey Lempner. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hospital officials said patients will not see any noticeable changes to their services or billing as a result of the new deal, although the contract no longer covers patients, hospitals and doctors enrolled in UnitedHealthCare’s Compass individual health plan.

“We know the disruption in our relationship with United Healthcare has been difficult and confusing for our patients,” Dr. Roger Ray, Carolinas HealthCare System executive vice president and chief physician officer, said in a statement. “Our focus remains on delivering the best care for our patients.”

Carolinas HealthCare System and UnitedHealthcare reached the new deal more than a month after failed contract negotiations resulted in their multiyear contract expiring on Feb. 28. Thousands of Charlotte-area hospital system patients were left in limbo when they were kicked out of UnitedHealthcare’s coverage network, leaving them unsure about where they would get medical care or how their bills would be paid.

Temporary waivers were extended to UnitedHealthcare clients with pending doctors’ appointments so they would be billed as if they were in-network.

Contract negotiations started last fall but grew troubled when UnitedHealthcare told its brokers the hospital system wanted to be paid up to 150 percent more than other hospitals in the Charlotte area for providing the same services.

Talks between hospital and insurance officials continued after the contract expired until a compromise was reached within the last week, Lempner said.

The new contract is retroactive to March 1, meaning people enrolled in UnitedHealthCare’s plans will not see any disruption in their benefits if they received care at a Carolinas HealthCare System facility after the previous contract ended.

“Any claims during that time from our members will be covered as in-network benefits,” Lempner said.

UnitedHealthcare serves more than 1 million people in North Carolina, including employees at Duke Energy, one of the Charlotte area’s largest employers.

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