UnitedHealthcare Agrees To Honor Contract Extension With Wellmont

UnitedHealthcare has agreed to honor a contract extension similar to the one Wellmont Health System signed several weeks ago, enabling negotiations to continue on a new deal.

In an agreement reached between both organizations Friday, the contract between Wellmont and UnitedHealthcare has been extended to June 18. UnitedHealthcare has also agreed to Wellmont's request to engage in a series of intensive in-person negotiations prior to that date in an effort to reach a contract agreement.

"We're encouraged UnitedHealthcare might be taking a different approach that could result in an agreement with better contract terms than it has previously offered," said Alice Pope, Wellmont's chief financial officer. "Wellmont will continue its good-faith negotiations that will hopefully mean less disruption for our valued patients."

UnitedHealthcare offered a contract extension several weeks ago, and Wellmont signed that document. However, UnitedHealthcare did not countersign it, so the contract was still set to expire on Saturday, May 31.

Pope said she understands the frustration some patients have experienced and appreciates their patience through this process. But she said Wellmont has always been focused on reaching an agreement that enables the health system to continue delivering superior care with compassion.

"Wellmont has always dealt fairly with insurance companies and provided the highest quality of care for our patients, including being very willing to participate in payment-for-quality arrangements," Pope said. "That will continue as we work during the next three weeks to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. Our patients have always been our No. 1 priority, and our commitment to deliver a high-caliber experience with our health system will never waver."

Pope said UnitedHealthcare has so far presented unacceptable contract terms that would result in significant and unreasonable reductions in reimbursement for Wellmont, which is a not-for-profit health system.

"It would not be appropriate financial stewardship to accept the proposal as currently offered," Pope said. "We are hopeful with this contract extension and further negotiations, we might be able to achieve an equitable resolution that effectively meets the needs of our patients and UnitedHealthcare's members."

This extension is in the best interest of UnitedHealthcare members, many of whom rely on the compassionate, expert care that Wellmont hospitals and clinics provide. Wellmont has regularly been recognized as a leader in the healthcare industry with numerous awards and designations that have further positioned the health system as a preferred provider in the region.