Tensions escalating between Wellmont and UnitedHealthcare as con - KCTV5

Tensions escalating between Wellmont and UnitedHealthcare as contract deadline nears

Today, UnitedHealthcare sent a letter to Wellmont blasting the health care system for a letter it sent to United customers. Today, UnitedHealthcare sent a letter to Wellmont blasting the health care system for a letter it sent to United customers.
KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) - Wellmont Health System said in a news release Thursday afternoon they are committed to meeting patient needs as the contract deadline between the health system and UnitedHealthcare nears, adding that the insurance company is only focused on protecting its business interests.

Below is the full statement from Wellmont Health System:

Wellmont Health System’s relationship with patients is our highest priority. Our physicians and other caregivers stand with patients and their families during their most difficult times. We will never stop advocating for our patients and their ability to receive the care they need or the information they need to make good healthcare decisions.

While UnitedHealthcare is primarily interested in protecting its business interests, Wellmont is committed to meeting the needs of the patients we serve right here in our communities every day. It is very unfortunate one of the largest and most profitable insurance companies has resorted to a public media campaign in order to generate even greater levels of profit.

While our local health systems and physicians are experiencing the most challenging financial times in our histories, UnitedHealth Group, based in Minnesota, made $5.625 billion in profits in 2013. Instead of focusing on its profitability, UnitedHealthcare should be more concerned about helping its members receive the care they need from the doctors and hospitals they trust.

An insurance company says it's considering possible legal action against Wellmont Health System as a contract deadline approaches.

Wednesday, UnitedHealthcare sent a letter to Wellmont blasting the health care system for a letter it sent to United customers.

Wellmont and United have yet to agree on a contract.   If terms aren't reached by June 1st, an estimated 20,000 United clients would be considered out-of-network at Wellmont facilities.

In the letter sent to Wednesday to Wellmont's Executive Vice-President of Legal and Corporate Affairs, UnitedHealthcare Chief Legal Officer Thad Johnson said Wellmont's communication with its clients interferes with its customers, includes several inaccurate statements, and even violates guidelines established by CMS, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Johnson demanded Wellmont publicly issue a correction and stop communicating with United clients.

Johnson said the letter was sent May 16th by Alice Pope, Wellmont Chief Financial Officer, and included the encouragement that United clients "switch to another insurance company."

News Channel 11 has not seen a copy of the letter in question.   Wellmont placed ads in local newspapers May 26th telling UnitedHealthcare customers "now is the time to switch insurance providers."

The letter ended with Johnson making a direct reference to possible legal action.    "We reserve all rights to take whatever actions are necessary to preserve our business relationship with our members and customers, including seeking court intervention."

Wellmont issued this statement in response to the letter Wednesday night.

"Wellmont Health System has fulfilled an important duty in communicating with its patients who have UnitedHealthcare insurance about the status of negotiations on a new contract. They deserve to know what is transpiring so they can make appropriate preparations. Our No. 1 goal is to keep these patients informed about any changes that might be coming and advising them of their options in case our two organizations do not reach an agreement.   It is unfortunate UnitedHealthcare has chosen to send this letter to media before it has had a chance to reach our mailbox."

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