UnitedHealth network cuts could alienate docs, members

Doctors are pushing back against UnitedHealth for dropping about 19 percent of doctors from its Medicare Advantage network in Connecticut.

The Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS) said the decision, which would affect roughly 58,000 Medicare Advantage members just before open enrollment, could disrupt long-term relationships these patients have with their physicians, potentially leading to inconsistent care and poor health outcomes.

"This comes less than two weeks before Medicare's Open Enrollment period," CSMS President Michael Saffir said in a statement.  "How can seniors make informed decisions when their own doctors don't even know whether they're in the United network?"

Saffir also questioned UnitedHealth's overall approach to the cuts. "Even if you need to cut something, you use a scalpel, not a chainsaw," he told the Connecticut Mirror. "The approach is so disruptive and abrupt that you're going to alienate both doctors and patients."

But UnitedHealth is merely assessing its network to "provide higher quality and more affordable healthcare coverage for Medicare beneficiaries," Dennis O'Brien, regional president of UnitedHealthcare Networks, told the Hartford Courant. "Ultimately, our goals are to build healthcare provider networks that encourage better healthcare outcomes, foster more collaboration between Medicare Advantage plans and physicians and encourage more use of primary care."

O'Brien wouldn't, however, disclose exactly how many doctors UnitedHealth is cutting from its network or whether it will make similar network changes to its other plans.

To learn more:
- here's the CSMS statement
- read the Connecticut Mirror article
- see the Hartford Courant article

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