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Baptist Health Could Be Out of Insurer’s Network If Rate Impasse Continues

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Baptist Health of Little Rock, the largest health care provider in Arkansas, could be out of UnitedHealthcare’s insurance network starting Jan. 1 if an agreement over reimbursement rates isn’t resolved.

Baptist Health is the latest Arkansas provider to battle the insurance company based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, over reimbursement rates.

“Our goal is to renew our long-standing relationship with Baptist Health to ensure the members we serve have continued, uninterrupted access to Baptist’s hospitals and physicians,” a UnitedHealthcare spokesperson said via email. “Unfortunately, Baptist continues to request double-digit price hikes that are neither affordable nor sustainable. We are proposing meaningful, market-competitive rate increases that ensure Baptist is reimbursed fairly.

“We are asking Baptist to work with us to reach an agreement that families and employers across Arkansas can afford.”

Baptist Health’s spokeswoman Cara Wade said in a statement to Arkansas Business that Arkansas hospitals have seen “an unprecedented rise in costs such as wages, supplies and pharmaceuticals. Adding to the challenge, Arkansas hospitals have been identified as having the lowest reimbursement rates in the nation, according to both government and private studies.”

And while Baptist Health said it improved operational efficiencies and controlled costs, it hasn’t been enough to overcome rising expenses. Baptist Health reported an operating loss of $12.93 million in 2022, as the financial stresses of COVID-19 continued to course through health care systems.

Baptist Health said it has asked its insurance payers to increase their reimbursement rates. “While we have found mutually beneficial ways to move forward with most payers, we have not yet been able to reach an agreement with all payers for 2024,” Wade said. “There is a possibility that some agreements will not be reached by the end of the year.”

If UnitedHealthcare is unable to reach an agreement with Baptist Health, Baptist’s providers and its hospitals will be out of network for UnitedHealthcare policyholders enrolled in employer-sponsored and individual commercial plans, Medicare Advantage and Group Retiree plans, as well as Dual Special Needs Plans.

Baptist Health has 11 hospitals in Arkansas and more than 100 primary and specialty care clinics in the state.

UnitedHealthcare policyholders who received treatment from Baptist Health received a letter dated Nov. 20 that said that UnitedHealthcare is in “good-faith negotiations” with Baptist Health with its goal of renewing its contract.

Conway Regional Health System initially left UnitedHealthcare’s network on July 1 after tough negotiations over reimbursement rates failed to produce an agreement. In August, Conway Regional announced it had a new deal with UnitedHealthcare.

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