Tenet and insurer UnitedHealthcare reach deal, avoiding cost hikes for UHC members at Desert Regional and JFK

August 1st, 2013 | by Victoria Pelham | Comments

Tenet Healthcare, which operates Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs and owns John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, has reached an agreement with insurer UnitedHealthcare just before their contract was set to expire, avoiding cost hikes for UHC members at the two valley hospitals.

The two companies have been in discussions for months over a new three-year contract that, if not implemented, would have taken the Tenet-affiliated hospitals out of the United network and raised their health care costs.

An agreement allowing UnitedHealthcare members continued access to Tenet hospitals’ was reached late last night, UnitedHealthcare spokeswoman Cheryl Randolph said Thursday morning.

“Nothing will change,” she said.

“The agreement ensures that patients with United Healthcare insurance will have uninterrupted access to the outstanding quality care they have come to expect from our hospitals,” Desert Regional spokesman Richard Ramhoff said in an email statement.

The current three-year contract between the two was set to expire Wednesday, July 31.

UnitedHealthcare members who have been treated at Tenet hospitals received a letter earlier this July warning them of the approaching deadline in the event that their hospital would be moved out of the network. The letter noted that Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree were both considered in-network, with United telling The Desert Sun that it would encourage its subscribers to move to Eisenhower if talks fell through.

“UnitedHealthcare is working with Tenet to reach a mutual agreement that allows our members continued access to all Tenet Healthcare facilities across the country while combating ever rising health care costs,” Randolph said in early July.

Eisenhower does not have a maternity ward, so stakes were high for pregnant women insured by UHC in the Coachella Valley.

UnitedHealthcare subscribers with “special health considerations,” such as those in their third trimester of pregnancy, people with end-stage renal disease or AIDS, and those receiving transplants, chemotherapy and radiation at either Desert Regional or JFK would have been able to continue their care through a “continuity of care” provision whether or not an agreement had been reached.

But patients worried Wednesday whether or not their coverage would remain the same as talks ran down to the wire late Wednesday.

Now, UHC members can continue to access Tenet facilities “as they normally have.”

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