In a court battle between insurance giant UnitedHealthcare and the 2,200 physicians the company planned to drop from its Medicare network, a judge has ruled in the doctors’ favor to block the terminations.
Doctors represented by the Fairfield County Medical Association and Hartford County Medical Association filed a federal lawsuit last month requesting an injunction that would prevent more than 2,000 physicians from being dropped.
The terminations were set to take effect Feb. 1, 2014 and would drop 2,200 physicians from the company’s Medicare Advantage program serving senior citizens. In-network physicians are available to patients at a much lower cost than out-of-network providers.
A federal judge granted the injunction in a preliminary ruling made Dec. 3, but representatives of UnitedHealthcare said the company plans to appeal the decision.
“We respectfully disagree with the court's preliminary ruling and intend to appeal immediately. We believe the court’s ruling will create unnecessary and harmful confusion and disruption to Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut. We continue to have a broad network of doctors that is designed to encourage higher quality, affordable health care coverage. We know that these changes can be concerning for some doctors and customers, and supporting our customers is our highest priority. UnitedHealthcare will continue to stay focused on the people we serve,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal supported the judge’s decision and urged UnitedHealthcare to stand down.
“UnitedHealth Group is threatening to deprive vulnerable elderly patients of health care from their doctors of choice who have served them over the years. The insurer should take the court's signal and end its shortsighted and improper efforts, which have caused unnecessary distress to seniors in Connecticut,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
Meanwhile, physicians are celebrating the victory but say they understand the battle has not yet been won.
“Both the Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations took this bold step for our patients and for our member physicians. We won’t let UnitedHealthcare get away with interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. While this is one huge step in the right direction, the journey is far from over,” said Dr. Robin Oshman, President of the Fairfield County Medical Association, in a statement on Friday.