More: Read this week’s cover story on the reimbursement rate battle between Arkansas hospitals and UnitedHealthcare.
Conway Regional Health System on Wednesday announced a new agreement with UnitedHealthcare after it left the insurance company last month amid tough negotiations over reimbursement rates.
The deal restores in-network coverage for patients with Conway Regional and its affiliated providers and clinics effective Aug. 15. That includes patients with commercial plans and Medicare Advantage.
Conway Regional has about 15,000 patients insured by a UnitedHealthcare plan, and about 10% of Conway Regional’s revenue comes from the insurer’s patients.
The health system did not disclose terms of the agreement in a news release.
The system left UnitedHealthcare in July after it couldn’t reach an agreement over rates, but contract negotiations continued. Conway Regional CEO Matt Troup said the insurance company was paying it about 50% less than hospitals in its market for in-patient procedures. He said the difference was even greater for outpatient care.
UnitedHealthcare in May said that Conway Regional had been demanding a 141% price hike over the next three years. The insurance company said the proposal would’ve made the hospital the most expensive in the state and would’ve significantly increased health care costs for people and employers in the region.
In a statement Wednesday, Troup said leaving UnitedHealthcare was “not a decision or a disruption that we took lightly.”
“Conway Regional has never termed a payor,” he said. “Our priority has always been the well-being of patients and ensuring the long-term viability of the health system. Resolution with United allows Conway Regional to maintain the access to care our patients deserve.”
In a separate statement, UnitedHealthcare said that it’s “honored to continue supporting all of the people throughout Arkansas who depend on us for access to quality and affordable health care.”
Other hospitals are actively negotiating with Minnesota-based UnitedHealthcare. Arkansas Heart Hospital said it will likely be out of UnitedHealthcare’s insurance network if its reimbursement rates aren’t increased. Washington Regional Medical System of Fayetteville said it’s optimistic the two sides can reach a deal.
The Arkansas Hospital Association told Arkansas Business this month that hospitals in the state are paid “very low” rates compared with other hospitals around the country.