Final deadline looms for Premier, UnitedHealthcare contract

Long running contract negotiations between Premier Health and UnitedHealthcare reached a critical juncture Friday with no signs of progress as the final deadline loomed to reach an agreement that would maintain UHC insurance coverage for thousands of Dayton-area residents at Premier physicians’ offices.

Not reaching an agreement would leave thousands of UHC policyholders scrambling to find new in-network providers in the Dayton area.

RELATED: Premier, UnitedHealthcare at odds over health plans

“We remain committed to continued discussions with Premier,” UHC said in a statement Friday. But “if we are unable to reach an agreement, Premier physicians will be out of network for employer-sponsored, individual and Medicaid plans, beginning May 14. Premier hospitals would also be out of network for Medicaid plans as of May 14 if an agreement is not reached.”

UHC policyholders with individual and employer-sponsored health plans have already been barred from in-network access to Premier hospitals as a result of failed negotiations last month.

And Dayton-based Premier, the largest health system in Southwest Ohio, and UHC, the nation’s largest health insurer, remain at odds over the insurer’s health plan design, which ranks hospitals and providers in tiers based on cost and quality.

RELATED: Premier, UnitedHealthcare stalemate continues

UHC argues its plan design encourages consumers to choose the most cost-efficient care providers, helping to drive down health costs for consumers in the long run.

But Premier argues it would be inherently disadvantaged by the tiered system, which, officials said, would also limit consumer choice.

“Premier Health remains committed to resolving our differences with UnitedHealthcare as soon as possible while protecting patient choice,” the company said in a statement Friday. “We continue to keep the lines of communication open out of great concern for our patients.”

About 70,000 Dayton area residents are enrolled in UHC health plans, according to the company.

But seniors with UHC Medicare Advantage plans have been shielded from the current contract talks. The two sides agreed late last month to extend their network relationship for UHC Medicare Advantage plans through the end of the year, providing policyholders with uninterrupted access to Premier hospitals and physicians.

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