After nearly a year of their in-network access being limited, people with UnitedHealthcare insurance will soon be able to use Montefiore Health System again.
The health insurer and health network had been negotiating a new contract since its previous one expired at the end of 2020. Since then, that’s left UnitedHealthcare members without in-network access to Montefiore’s 10 hospitals and more than 200 outpatient facilities in Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Bronx counties.
That access will be restored on Dec. 1, though, thanks to a new multi-year agreement between the two sides.
“The long-term health of our patients has always been the central focus of our negotiations,” Colleen Blye, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Montefiore Health System, said in a statement Thursday. “Over the past 10 months, the support of our local employers, elected officials and communities has been overwhelming, and we are pleased that our patients once again have in-network access to their trusted Montefiore hospitals and providers.”
People enrolled in UnitedHealthcare and Oxford employer-sponsored plans, as well as UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Dual Special Needs Plan, will have restored access to Montefiore’s hospitals, facilities and physicians, the health insurer said.
Montefiore officials said last year that about 60,000 patients could have been impacted by the standoff, which was fueled by negotiations over future reimbursement rates. The lack of a deal meant Montefiore physicians were considered out of network for commercial and Medicaid UnitedHealthcare policies starting Jan. 1, 2021, and Montefiore hospitals were out of network starting March 1, 2021.
Diane Serratore, CEO of People To People, said the long-term agreement between Montefiore and UnitedHealthcare is a relief.
“I was born in Nyack Hospital, had my tonsils out there when I was 10, was hospitalized for pneumonia there in 2018 and in December 2020 for heart issues,” Serratore said. “So imagine my dismay when, in 2021, I could not follow up with the specialists from Montefiore Nyack because UnitedHealthcare would not reach an agreement with my hospital.”
Serratore, a resident of the Nyacks, said knowing her insurance is accepted at her local hospital is reassuring. “I hope I never have to be hospitalized again but it is comforting to know that, if I do, I can go to the hospital that has taken care of me my whole life.”
Some patients, including people who were receiving pregnancy care or cancer treatment, qualified for continued continuity of care even after the contract expired.
Montefiore would not provide more details of the new agreement or say how long it is for. UnitedHealthcare could not immediately be reached for comment on the length of the deal.
“We recognize and appreciate the care Montefiore provides is important and personal to our members, and we also know the negotiation process has been difficult for them,” Michael McGuire, CEO of UnitedHealthcare New York, said in a statement. “Our top priority has been ensuring the people and employers we’re honored to serve in New York have access to quality, more affordable health care, and this new agreement helps accomplish that goal.”
UnitedHealthcare, one of the state’s largest insurers, said more than 3.7 million people in New York are enrolled in employer-sponsored, individual, Medicare and Medicaid plans through a network of 319 hospitals and more than 111,000 physicians and other care providers.
Montefiore is one of the region’s biggest medical providers. In the Hudson Valley, the network includes Mount Vernon Hospital, New Rochelle Hospital, White Plains Hospital, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, Nyack Hospital and St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital.