By Jenny Deam
Houston Chronicle, October 10, 2019
As many as 100,000 UnitedHealthcare plan members could lose in-network access to all eight Houston Methodist hospitals and dozens of its out-patient facilities on Dec. 31 after the insurer announced it was dropping the major hospital system from its network.
The move would affect anyone with a UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored plan as well as those covered under the insurer’s Medicare Advantage program for seniors, both the hospital and the insurance company confirmed on Thursday.
UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest insurer, has also said it would drop roughly 800 Methodist-employed physicians from its network on April 1, 2020.
Negotiations are continuing, but the war of words has escalated in recent days as both sides accuse the other of bad faith and greed.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Proponents of private health insurance, supported by the media, keep telling us that Medicare for All would take away the insurance that you get through work. They also tell us that seniors would lose their private Medicare Advantage plans.
Well, we don’t have Medicare for All, but the largest private insurer in the nation is taking away both employer-sponsored plans and Medicare Advantage plans from patients who obtain their care from Houston Methodist hospitals and its out-patient facilities. (Technically, they are not taking away the plans, rather they are taking away the health care that their enrollees are receiving.) Think about that. It is the private insurer that is reducing choices in health care, choices of physicians, choices of hospitals, and choices of benefit plans. That is after they had already restricted choices to their own provider networks.
Both sides in this dispute agree that the other side is guilty of bad faith and greed. Is this market approach really the way we want our health care system financed? Or would we rather have our own public stewards negotiating fair payments under a system with free choice in health care that is guaranteed to be there and to be affordable for each of us forever? Guaranteeing UnitedHealthcare the right to continue to exercise bad faith and greed doesn’t seem to be the way to go. Single Payer Medicare for All is, if we really want guaranteed, affordable health care for all of us.
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