Unit­edHealth­care jeop­ar­diz­ing your ac­cess to health­care

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - NEWS - By Sharif Omar CEO, North­west Health — Sharif Omar is CEO of North­west Health. The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

Re­cently, our physi­cians be­came out of network for all pa­tients with United com­mer­cial, in­di­vid­ual and Medi­care Ad­van­tage health plans. Now our hospi­tals may soon face the same fate — leav­ing fewer health­care op­tions avail­able for our com­mu­nity — un­less an agree­ment is reached before Nov. 1, 2017.

It’s not un­usual for health in­surance com­pa­nies and health­care providers to dis­cuss and re­new con­tracts. Fair con­tracts al­low us to en­sure that North­west Health re­mains a trusted health sys­tem for our pa­tients for years to come, and that our fa­cil­i­ties are ad­e­quately-equipped to con­tinue pro­vid­ing ex­cep­tional care.

Our physi­cians and fa­cil­i­ties are an es­sen­tial part of the re­gion’s ac­cess to high-qual­ity care. As one of the most com­pre­hen­sive health net­works in North­west Arkansas— with ser­vices in­clud­ing in­pa­tient, out­pa­tient, di­ag­nos­tic imag­ing, med­i­cal, sur­gi­cal and emer­gency ser­vices—re­mov­ing North­west Health from United’s network could have a bur­den­some re­sult on our pa­tients, leav­ing them with nar­rower op­tions—or pos­si­bly no op­tions—for re­ceiv­ing the es­sen­tial care they need.

If United re­mains un­will­ing to reach a com­pro­mise, our pa­tients may have to pay higher out-of­pocket costs when re­ceiv­ing care at our hospi­tals and fa­cil­i­ties be­gin­ning Nov. 1. Beyond pro­vid­ing per­son­al­ized, com­pas­sion­ate care, our hos­pi­tal sup­ports our com­mu­nity beyond our walls in the form of fi­nan­cial sup­port for needed resources. Last year alone, we paid more than $6.7 mil­lion in prop­erty and busi­ness taxes and pro­vided more than $100 mil­lion in char­ity and un­com­pen­sated care.

We are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to help pa­tients re­store and main­tain in­net­work ben­e­fits with our hospi­tals, fa­cil­i­ties and physi­cians. What can United members do?

• Call United. United members should call the num­ber on the back of their health in­surance card and de­mand that United work with us to re­store and main­tain in­net­work ben­e­fits with North­west Health physi­cian prac­tices and hospi­tals.

• Talk to Your Em­ployer. If you have in­surance through your em­ployer, ask them to ex­plore other health in­surance op­tions that have our providers in their network. We are in network with most other ma­jor health plans. If you have op­tions, con­sider switch­ing to a health plan that guar­an­tees your in­net­work ac­cess to all our providers.

• Call the Cen­ters for Medi­care & Med­i­caid Ser­vices (CMS). Med­i­caid Ad­van­tage members can call the Cen­ters for Medi­care & Med­i­caid Ser­vices (CMS) to let them know the im­por­tance of in-network ben­e­fits with your pre­ferred physi­cians and hos­pi­tal. You can con­tact CMS di­rectly at 800-6334227.

• Ap­ply for Con­ti­nu­ity of Care. If you or a fam­ily mem­ber is preg­nant or un­der­go­ing treat­ment for an on­go­ing condition, you may be able to con­tinue your cur­rent course of care as in-network through your Con­ti­nu­ity of Care ben­e­fits. Please call the cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber on the back of your United in­surance card to see if you qual­ify.

North­west Health will con­tinue to do ev­ery­thing we can to en­sure our pa­tients have re­stored and con­tin­ued ac­cess to our health­care ser­vices in network. We will con­tinue to work with United in hopes of reach­ing an agree­ment that is in the best in­ter­est of our pa­tients.

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