UnitedHealthcare, Providence Anesthesiology impasse lands patient with $15K bill

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A contract impasse between UnitedHealthcare and Providence Anesthesiology Associates left one patient in North Carolina with a more than $15,000 surprise medical bill, according to WBTV.

Jenna Wolbert received surgical care at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., between May and September 2020. The hospital was considered in-network under her UnitedHealthcare health plan. 

However, in January of this year, Ms. Wolbert was billed $15,744.58 from Providence Anesthesiology Associates for anesthesia services provided during the procedures. The anesthesiology provider was no longer a part of UnitedHealthcare's network as of March 1, 2020, according to Providence Anesthesiology Associates' website, but Ms. Wolbert said she was not made aware of this coverage change before her procedures. 

In a statement provided to WBTV, Providence Anesthesiology Associates said it "is fiercely opposed to the surprise billing UnitedHealthcare initiated by unexpectedly dropping us from their provider network last year. We're one of the numerous specialty practices throughout North Carolina and across the country that United has removed in an effort to increase their profits at the expense of patients. Providence is fighting on behalf of these patients by filing appeals with United and claims with the North Carolina Department of Insurance, and all our patients should know that we're not asking for any payments until each individual situation is resolved." 

UnitedHealthcare told WBTV it is reviewing Ms. Wolbert's bill, and said it is working with Providence to reach a new agreement on reimbursement rates. "Exorbitant surprise bills are stressful for patients and drive up the cost of health care for everyone. That's why Congress passed legislation that will prohibit providers from surprise billing their patients starting in 2022. What's most important for our members to know is that they should contact us if they receive a surprise bill from Providence. We will work directly with Providence to negotiate a reimbursement rate so our members are not held responsible for paying the bill."

A spokesperson from Novant acknowledged the issue to WBTV, and called on UnitedHealthcare and Providence to resume negotiations immediately. 

"Unfortunately, the impasse in negotiations between UHC and PAA has our patients stuck in the middle. UHC must resume negotiations, now, and work with PAA to find a reasonable solution. We continue to share our patients' concerns and frustrations," the spokesperson said.

Access the full report here.

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