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Hartford Hospital Says UnitedHealth's Claims About 30% Rate Hike Are 'Factually Wrong'

Hartford HospitalInsuranceThe Hospital of Central Connecticut

Hartford Hospital says the rate increases it is asking of UnitedHealth Group is "not even close" to the 30 percent that the insurer says the hospital wants over the course of three years.

"That is factually wrong — not even close," Hartford Hospital spokeswoman Rebecca Stewart said Wednesday.

The hospital is seeking an increase to reimbursement rates that is slightly above the medical inflation rate, which she says is 5.9 percent. The hospital would not, however, say what percentage increase in rates it wants each year, other than Stewart saying "around 6 percent."

Neither UnitedHealth nor Hartford Hospital will give the actual dollar amounts of proposed rates, which could be compared with current rates to verify one or the other's argument. The proposed rates are often considered proprietary information during any negotiation between an insurer and a hospital. In recent years, however, the public has been given a closer look at sticking points in these type of negotiations as consumers complain about the price of medical coverage.

UnitedHealth stands by its statement, said company spokesman Daryl Richard. The parent company for Oxford and UnitedHealthcare health plans says consumers will pay 30 percent more over the next three years for services received at Hartford Hospital.

"In practical terms, that means the average cost for a two-day hospital stay after delivering a baby would increase by as much as $650, and the average cost of outpatient surgery, such as arthroscopic knee surgery, would increase by almost $300," Richard said in an e-mail Tuesday.

The region's largest hospital, and its affiliate The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain and Southington, are battling the nation's largest health insurer in contract negotiations that have dragged on for more than seven months. The current contract expires Oct. 28 and could mean that thousands of patients will face higher, out-of-network rates for hospital services.

The debate is centered on reimbursement rates that the hospital charges the insurance company for medical services such as surgeries and diagnostic tests.

Hartford Hospital sent letters in late September to notify 26,783 people who were patients at either of the two hospitals in the past 12 months and had UnitedHealthcare or Oxford health insurance or Medicare Advantage plans. That number comprises 9,500 for Hartford Hospital patients and 17,283 for The Hospital of Central Connecticut. UnitedHealth said it sent letters to about 6,800 members who might face higher, out-of-network rates if a new contract is not in place by Oct. 28.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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