Health Care
12:15 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Lawmakers Take United Healthcare to Task Over Medicare Plan

Credit Gubcio / iStock / Thinkstock

Insurer United Healthcare was taken to task at a legislative hearing in Hartford for its action in dropping 2,000 Connecticut physicians from its Medicare Advantage plan. The company is in the midst of legal action by doctors' groups in the state over the move.

"Probably this action is illegal under present law, but if we need to change the law we will."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal

They face an appeal court hearing next week. The company says trimming the network was a way to make the plan more affordable. But Dr. Richard Russo, president-elect of the Connecticut State Medical Association, said he believes it was an underhanded way to get rid of expensive patients.

"I'm from the city of Bridgeport," Russo said. "It has a very indigent population that has been abandoned, now, by United Medicare Advantage programs. To think that a patient on the south side of Bridgeport that needs dialysis now has to go to Norwalk to get it -- these people don't own cars. There's no way to solve this problem. Dr. Dan Williams, one of our best doctors in the inner city, treats HIV patients. There's no other physician in private practice in that region that does it. He's out of the plan."

The entire Congressional delegation has written to United Healthcare to protest the action. Wednesday's hearing was organized by Senator Richard Blumenthal. 

"This outrageous abuse is not only unacceptable in Connecticut," Blumenthal said, "it should not be permitted anywhere in the country. There ought to be standards and actions that will prevent this kind of unfair, unjustified termination of doctors from a Medicare Advantage network to the detriment of patients that have depended on them over many years. Probably this action is illegal under present law, but if we need to change the law we will."

The hearing was addressed by a representative of America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group for health insurers. She told legislators that customers have 12 Medicare plans to opt into if United Healthcare does not meet their needs.