UnitedHealthcare Expands Physician Network
UnitedHealthcare earlier this month announced that it has expanded its network by 41 hospitals and 11,000 doctors, the San Francisco Business Times reports. The expansion represents a 7% increase in doctors from its previous network that "leased" doctors and hospitals from Blue Shield of California.
After acquiring PacifiCare in December 2005, the federal government required UnitedHealthcare to terminate its lease with a Blue Shield subsidiary within one year. However, Blue Shield's CareTrust network narrowed the deadline to six months, ending June 22 (Rauber, San Francisco Business Times, 10/13).
After the merger, hundreds of Bay Area doctors rejected proposed contracts with UnitedHealthcare, saying reimbursement rates were too low (California Healthline, 6/9).
To compete with UnitedHealthcare, Blue Shield began offering employers the same health insurance rates for one year that they paid for worker benefits the year before under contracts with UnitedHealthcare (California Healthline 6/16).
Tyler Mason, spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare, said that while the expanded network is not the same, the crossover from the lease arrangement is about 97%.
Roxann Loose -- a consultant at Burlingame-based Physician Focus, which handles negotiations for 45 local medical practices -- said UnitedHealthcare is offering inadequate incentives for physicians to sign contracts and is paying some clients at rates "well below Medicare on what they say are existing PacifiCare contracts" (San Francisco Business Times, 10/13).