UnitedHealthcare defends contract negotiations

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

In a statement released Monday evening, UnitedHealthcare said its negotiations with Saint Francis Healthcare System are efforts to reduce the cost of health care for Southeast Missouri residents.

“The cost of care at Saint Francis Medical Center is nearly two and a half times more expensive than the average cost of the hospitals in our network in the St. Louis metropolitan area, where more competition among hospitals has driven costs down,” the statement said.

Though Saint Francis officials said Monday morning they have cut costs 25% in the past two years, United’s statement said those cuts haven’t gone far enough.

“Unfortunately Saint Francis has refused to address its high costs and is also demanding that we prohibit local employers from helping to lower health care costs for their employees by encouraging them to use quality, more affordable hospitals,” the statement said. “Saint Francis is driving up the cost of health care for the people of Cape Girardeau and the companies that do business here, which is why we are working to establish a new agreement with more competitive rates. We are asking Saint Francis to join us in our commitment to providing the people of Cape Girardeau with access to health care that is not only high quality but also affordable.”

Regarding its termination notice sent to Saint Francis in November, which would result in Saint Francis facilities becoming “out of network” on March 5, United contended Saint Francis officials did not respond to a proposal sent last summer and the November action was meant to spur action with the goal being a renewal of the contract.

Information provided by United suggested the entities are far apart on an agreement, alleging Saint Francis’ costs are more than double those of hospitals in the St. Louis area and costs at the hospital have not decreased.

Addressing concerns United customers may have regarding services at Saint Francis, United noted patients in ongoing treatment may petition United to continue to use Saint Francis facilities on an in-network basis. The company also said patients requiring emergency services would be able to seek treatment at the nearest facility at in-network cost levels. The company encouraged customers to call the number indicated on their insurance card or visit www.myUHC.com or www.UHCCommunityPlan.com if they have questions or would like information on other health care facilities.

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