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BayCare Ends Contract With UnitedHealthcare, Affecting 400,000

One of the nation's largest health insurers has been shown the door by BayCare Health System, Tampa Bay's dominant non-profit hospital chain.

The dispute over money affects 400,000 United customers in employer, Medicare and Medicaid plans,  said Elizabeth Calzadilla-Fiallo, spokeswoman for the Florida division of the Minnesota-based insurer.

Medicare members are in open enrollment until Dec. 7, so those who want to switch to a different health  plan still have time to do so.  BayCare, in letters and newspaper ads, has been inviting them to make the switch.

Meanwhile, United has taken the unusual step of making some of the contract numbers public to back up its argument that BayCare is being greedy. For its part, BayCare says United owes millions in unpaid bills.

Customers are left in the middle. Those who use a BayCare hospital -- and their numbers are legion, since BayCare's Morton Plant and St. Joseph's are the largest hospitals in Pinellas and Hillsborough -- may also have a family doctor or favorite specialist who practices only at BayCare hospitals.

It is still possible that the two parties can reach agreement, but if that doesn't happen soon United customers will be squeezed, as open-enrollment in Medicare and employer-sponsored contracts  nears an end. In many cases, the commercial sign-ups are already a done deal.

BayCare has 10 acute-care hospitals: Mease Countryside, Mease Dunedin, Morton Plant, Morton Plant North Bay, St. Anthony's, St. Joseph's, St. Joseph's North, St. Joseph's Children's, St. Joseph's Women's, South Florida Baptist.

The network also has a rehabilitation hospital, BayCare Alliant, which is on the Mease Dunedin campus, according to the BayCare web site.

The system last year had more than 124,000 inpatient discharges and over 435,000 emergency room visits, the web site says.

United released a list of hospitals with which it still has contracts in the tri-county area:

In Hillsborough County: Brandon Regional, Florida Hospital Carrollwood and Florida Hospital Tampa, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Memorial Hospital of Tampa, South Bay Hospital, Tampa General and Town and Country Hospital.

In Pasco County: Medical Center of Trinity, Pasco Regional Medical Center, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, Regionnal Medical Center Bayonet Point.

In Pinellas County: All Children's Hospital, Bayfront Medical Center, Edward White Hospital, Florida Hospital North Pinellas, Largo Medical Center, Largo Medical Center-Indian Rocks, Northside Hospital and Heart Institute, Palms of Pasadena Hospital and St. Petersburg General Hospital.

Both companies released statements late today in which they said they were open to further discussions.

BayCare's statement said its employed physician groups will no longer take United's working-age and Medicaid patients, but will still see Medicare Advantage patients. BayCare’s employed physician groups include:  HealthPoint Medical Group, Morton Plant Mease Primary Care, Morton Plant Mease Specialists, Morton Plant Mease Immediate Care, St. Anthony’s Primary Care, St. Anthony’s Specialists and Suncoast Medical Clinic.

United's statement said in part that the company was "disappointed that BayCare was unwilling to change its requested rate increase, and as a result they have terminated their contract with UnitedHealthcare. "

BayCare noted patients can continue to use its hospitals and physicians if they have out-of-network benefits, but should call United first to get authorization. The phone number to call is on the United membership cards.

--Health News Florida, journalism for a healthy state, is a service of

WUSF Public Media. Question? Comment? Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 (desk) or 727-410-3266 (cell) or write to her at cgentry@wusf.org.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel. She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an Master's in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996. She directed a journalism fellowship program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for four years.Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014, when she became a special correspondent. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF in 2012.
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