In mid-October UHC began terminating physicians in their Medicare Advantage plan. We immediately reached out to UHC when it appeared that the terminations were not isolated, but rather part of a broad initiative. This week, UHC responded to some of our questions. We are disappointed that there was no warning of this termination initiative which appears to be a significant redesign of the UHC Medicare Advantage network, nationwide, and that information is sparse. For example, UHC would not tell us how many physicians in New Jersey were terminated or whether any specialties were immune to the termination initiative. Yet, UHC assured us that the network had been “tested and retested” for network adequacy and that there would not be a specialty access issue.
Network Adequacy: Obviously, MSNJ has no way of evaluating the impact on the network without more information. Therefore, we are asking all physicians who received termination letters, to provide us with information so that we can better evaluate network adequacy concerns. CMS has agreed to help us with that assessment.
Lack of Transparency: In addition to our network adequacy concerns, we are troubled that patients may be enrolling or re-enrolling in the UHC Medicare Advantage plan now, because seniors are in the middle of open enrollment, believing that they will be able to continue to be treated by physicians who are currently in the plan. UHC agreed to consider our complaint on lack of transparency on the 2014 network, given that seniors are enrolling now based on the current network. It is important to note that patients may change their network selection. CMS will honor the last selection made by the patient by December 7 when open enrollment ends.
Continuity of Care: We expressed our concerns about continuity of care and a disruption of established physician-patient relationships. We urged UHC to carve out an exception for patients who wish to continue to see their current physician. UHC agreed to consider this request. We believe that patients should have the right to choose their physicians and must know their network status to make those choices.
Discussions with CMS: With a reopening of the federal government, we have contacted CMS about our network adequacy and continuity of care concerns. Our Region 2 office has been facilitating communication with the Region 9 office which is responsible for the UHC Medicare Advantage network. CMS Region 9 is charged with ensuring network adequacy and transparency for Medicare beneficiaries in their selection of a Medicare product. CMS has offered to test areas for network adequacy. Please provide us with information so that we can identify geographical and specialty areas of concern.
What to do: Last week we urged physicians who wished to stay in the Medicare Advantage network to appeal and provided suggestions for those appeals. We will continue to update our advice to members as more information becomes available to us. Visit our web site for a list of Do’s and Don’ts, Appeal Suggestions, a template letter to inform patients of your imperiled status in the UHC Medicare Advantage Network.
Visit MSNJ’s UHC Webpage for more information.