New Mexicans have been living with a lot of health uncertainty for nearly three years. Now, due to stalled contract negotiations, thousands of New Mexicans enrolled in UnitedHealthcare Group plans may have to find new doctors and hospitals.
Physician and hospital contracts between UnitedHealthcare and Lovelace, which have been in place for nearly 20 years, are set to expire early next year. Negotiations have stalled for unclear reasons, leaving up to 13,400 United members in health care limbo. That number includes 2,400 United members who have Lovelace physicians as primary care providers — people such as cancer patient Colleen Aycock of Albuquerque, who’s been utilizing Lovelace as her main source of care.
“To me, this is a crisis,” Aycock told the Journal. “We can’t get answers.”
The current contract between United and Lovelace’s hospitals is set to expire in January. The contract between United and Lovelace’s physicians will come to an end in March if a new agreement isn’t reached. That means, starting next year, all United plans at Lovelace — with the exception of Medicare Supplement plans — will be considered out of network, and out of luck.
Seriously ill patients such as Aycock need continuity of care. They should be able to focus on their recovery, not left scrambling to find new providers two years into cancer treatment.
United and Lovelace have created a health care crisis affecting more over 13,000 New Mexicans, many of whom rely on Lovelace Medical Center, Lovelace Regional Hospital in Roswell, Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center, Lovelace Women’s Hospital and Lovelace Westside Hospital for care.
“It’s desperation,” Aycock explained. “It’s like the rug is yanked out from underneath you.”
United and Lovelace need to work this out, and ASAP, to keep patients and their trusted providers connected.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.