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Lack of CNE and United contract wouldn’t immediately affect patient care

December 21, 2010

So, to review- Care New England (the hospital system that comprises Butler, Women and Infants, and Kent hospitals) and United Health Care are engaged in a tough contract negotiation.  The contract expires on December 31st, and it seems the two sides are playing chicken.

It all started with a letter from Care New England (CNE),  the hospital system that comprises Butler, Women and Infants, and Kent hospitals.

In it, CNE warned patients with United insurance that they wouldn’t be able to receive hospital services if United Health Care didn’t budge during their contract negotiations.

Then United sent a letter of its own, basically saying the same thing to its members.

It was amusing to see Care New England discount United’s letter on the evening news ( at about :57) only weeks after it tried the same tactic.

The back and forth confused patients, so the Department of Health is trying to clear the air.

In a release today health officials say EVEN if United and Care New England don’t reach an agreement by December 31st, United patients will still be able to use CNE hospitals.

Why? Because if United dropped CNE from its health insurance plan, that would be what’s called a “material modification,”  or a major change to its policies. And any modification like that requires the Health Department’s approval. That approval process  requires a lot of time for public comment and review.

So, there’s no immediate danger for patients with United insurance. And, with only two large private insurers in this state and only one major birthing hospital (Women and Infants) I’m not sure if there was ever anything to worry about.  These guys need each other.  It’s all a matter of who breaks first.

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