After a two-month stalemate, there finally appears to be some progress in the contract dispute between UnitedHealthcare and Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS). On September 22, United submitted new contract proposals to NGHS, signaling a potential breakthrough in the negotiations.
Steve McNeilly, the chief operating officer of population health and vice president of managed care operations for NGHS, stated that they are currently evaluating these new proposals. However, it remains unclear whether these proposals are a move in the right direction. This is the first sign of movement after the contract dispute left thousands of United Healthcare insurance policyholders in a difficult situation earlier this year.
The contract between United and NGHS expired on April 30, and since then, both sides have been blaming each other for the impasse. UnitedHealthcare Director of Corporate Communications, Cole Manbeck, accused NGHS of refusing to compromise on their demands for a more than 20% price hike over the next three years. He stated that United had provided a fair and reasonable proposal in March, which included meaningful rate increases. On the other hand, McNeilly claimed that NGHS proposed a single-digit increase that would have brought United in line with other insurance companies. He called United’s March proposal “unreasonable” and mentioned that they know NGHS cannot accept it.
At this point, it is unclear whether these latest proposals will differ from the previous ones. McNeilly did not provide any specifics, and United did not respond immediately to requests for more information. The lack of details leaves both parties and the public in suspense regarding the potential outcome of these negotiations.
This is not the first time NGHS has had contract negotiations with United. Their last negotiation was in 2012, and McNeilly highlighted that the contract had not kept pace with the changing economy. He mentioned that United paid less than any other commercial insurance company. In response, Manbeck argued that NGHS’ demands would increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs for policyholders, as well as the cost of doing business for other companies. McNeilly countered by stating that United could absorb the proposed increase, given their significant profits.
Looking ahead, McNeilly expressed limited hope that a deal could be reached before the open enrollment period begins in November. He expressed disappointment at receiving the new proposals late in September and emphasized the importance of evaluating them to find a way forward while ensuring patients receive the care they need.
While negotiations with United are ongoing, NGHS announced a two-year extension of their contract with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Georgia on September 26. This provides relief for NGHS and Anthem policyholders, as they can continue to receive care without disruption.
Overall, the submission of new contract proposals by UnitedHealthcare to Northeast Georgia Health System offers a glimmer of hope in resolving the dispute. However, it remains to be seen if these proposals will pave the way for a resolution that benefits all parties involved. As the negotiations continue, stakeholders and policyholders eagerly await a resolution that ensures access to affordable and high-quality healthcare services.