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UHC Terminations of Physicians in Medicare Advantage Plan

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.

Save the date for MSNJ’s UHC Termination Update webinar on Tuesday, October 29 at 7:00PM. Details to follow on www.msnj.org.

Congress Must Act to Avert Medicare Fee Cuts Before January 1

The annual rite of organized medicine seeking congressional action to avert steep Medicare fee cuts before January 1 is upon us. However, this year is different. Not only is a 27% fee cut scheduled to occur because of the flawed SGR formula, but physicians will also be subject to an additional 2% fee cut under the sequestration. Next week Congress and the President will return to Washington to face the fiscal cliff, in addition to resolving the annual Medicare fee issue. In anticipation of this, MSNJ joined virtually all of organized medicine to support SGR Transition Principles in personal letters to the New Jersey delegation. We previously gained the personal support of many of our delegation. (See MSNJ e-News dated February 16, 2012). Members are asked to watch for a strategically timed grass-roots “call to action” on this issue.

Call to Action: Repeal New Jersey’s Unfair Cosmetics Tax

Important legislation that would repeal New Jersey’s unfair tax on cosmetic medical procedures is just ONE STEP away from the Governor’s Desk!  But first, the full Assembly needs to vote on the measure before they adjourn on January 9. Now, we need your help to get the bill posted at the January 9 Assembly voting session.

Step 1: Please call the Speaker of the Assembly Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) at (973) 395-1166 and ask that she post A-3656/S-1988 at the January 9 voting session.

Step 2: Click here to find your local Assembly members and call them too! Introduce yourself as a concerned physician in their district, and ask that they encourage Speaker Oliver to post the bill.

Tell them you agree with the sponsor, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, when he said “This tax has proven ineffective and an administrative hardship to New Jersey residents and businesses,” and “This phase-out will gradually alleviate the financial and administrative burdens associated with the tax. Since it was imposed, the tax has increased overall costs for recipients of cosmetic medical procedures, and imposed an administrative burden on the medical offices billing the procedures and the state agencies charged with the administration and enforcement of the tax. It’s time to get rid of it.”
When enacted, the bill will gradually phase out this unfair tax over three years, but the time for you to act is NOW!