Medicare Advantage network cuts pit UnitedHealth against Connecticut officials

UnitedHealthcare has amassed two more opponents to its Medicare Advantage network cuts--the state of Connecticut and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), The Hartford Courant reported.

Both parties filed a brief supporting a federal judge's injunction against the insurer's attempt to drop thousands of  Medicare Advantage doctors as of Feb. 1, according to the Courant. They backed the Fairfield County Medical Association and the Hartford County Medical Association, warning of care disruption and its harmful effects on patients.  

"Connecticut patients will immediately face the Hobson's choice of having to give up their current physicians, thereby risking medical errors arising from lack of continuity of care, or paying much higher rates to retain their current physicians," Blumenthal wrote in his amicus brief filed Monday, the Courant noted.

"Disruption to continuity of care is highly detrimental, especially for the elderly and those suffering from chronic and debilitating conditions," Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and state Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri wrote Monday in the state's amicus brief.

Despite the recent injection, UnitedHealth is going ahead with plans to cut down the network and appealed the decision. The court will hold an appeal hearing sometime this month, according to CT News Junkie. In response to the "friend of the court" briefs, the nation's largest health insurer maintained the network cuts will promote high-quality, affordable Medicare coverage, CT News Junkie noted.

Medicare Advantage network cuts are among payer efforts to offset $200 million in less funding over the next 10 years, initiatives that America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) encouraged in a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

Earlier this week, AHIP reiterated its concerns with the "harmful" federal funding cuts to Medicare Advantage plans. "As the majority of these cuts are phased in over the next few years and as the Quality Bonus Demonstration program expires at the end of 2014, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will experience even higher costs, reduced benefits, and fewer health care choices," President and CEO Karen Ignagni said Tuesday in a statement.

To learn more:
- read the Hartford Courant article
- read the CT News Junkie article
- here's the AHIP statement