Monday, January 25, 2010

UnitedHealthCare's blitzkrieg on hospitals

SHOULD YOU have any doubts about the blitzkrieg that the health insurance has assembled to destroy any semblance of reforms, check out the withering reports about UnitedHealthCare's threat to a major hospital chain in New York. As reported by the New York Times, the insurance giant has demanded that hospitals notify it of an incoming patient within 24 hours or face the loss of half of the patient's coverage. The hospitals, which include Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke's -Roosevelt Hospital Center, are fighting to stave off UnitedHealthCare's poison pills. The teaching hospitals would have to absorb whatever loss that arose from the insurer's reduced coverage. The insurer said it merely wants to cut costs and prove the quality of health care. Fat chance.

Is UnitedHealthCare kidding? As one who has bounced through that outfit and then moved on to Aetna before it became a burdensome nuisance, I can report from personal experience that I often wondered whether the Aetna enforcers ever read their mail. A full eight or nine months after we switched to our current insurer, I and my wife were still getting notices from it despite a number of phone calls and letters to it with reminders to Aetna that we were no longer under its so-called tent.

In the New York case, the hospitals might be pleasantly surprised if they ignored the threat. It's possible that UnitedHealthCare would not catch up with such defiance for many months. What would you lose that you might lose anyway?

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