Local News

WakeMed, UnitedHealthcare at Odds Over Payments

Posted February 26, 2007 9:28 p.m. EST
Updated February 27, 2007 7:08 a.m. EST

— Shawn Belcher said she was floored when a letter came in the mail recently from her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, announcing it was terminating its contract with WakeMed.

WakeMed is the only hospital with which Belcher'sdoctors do business. The letter meant Belcher and other UHC cardholders would no longer be covered if they continued using WakeMed.

"It's like penalizing me for picking the wrong health-care group,” Belcher said.

UHC officials claim they're charged more for services than their competitors are charged. They said they want a reduction by midnight Wednesday or they’ll cut off WakeMed completely.

“Their contract as it exists today is what it is. It's a contract,” said WakeMed spokeswoman Debra Laughery. “We can't right now afford to reduce what they pay us."

UHC officials issued a statement in response saying: "WakeMed's reimbursement rates continue to be among the highest in the Raleigh market. We remain open to any future discussions with WakeMed with the goal of keeping health care affordable for our members and employer-group customers."

“For them to ask WakeMed to charge them accordingly with their competitor, Blue Cross Blue Shield, I don't think that's a really bad request,” Belcher said.

Both sides said they will continue to negotiate. If they can’t work out the dispute, however, Belcher said she and her family would be shopping for another health-care provider.

UHC customers will have other options if a resolution can't be reached. The company contracts with five other local hospitals, including nearby Rex Hospital. But WakeMed is the only hospital in Wake County with a Level 1 trauma center and the highest level intensive care nursery.

UHC officials said they encourage any of members with questions or concerns to call the member service number on the back of their ID card. Wake Med has set up a hotline for concerned community members at 919-350-CARE (2273).