Tuesday, October 19 2021

Houston Methodist will change the insurance of 26,000 hospital system employees from UnitedHealthcare to Cigna, one of the nation’s largest insurers – the latest move in a protracted battle between one of Houston’s largest hospital systems and UnitedHealthcare.

On Monday, Houston Methodist announced that it will cover its employees through the Cigna Allegiance affiliate from July 1. UnitedHealthcare this year pulled Houston Methodist from its network in a cost dispute, which has affected approximately 100,000 patients.

Houston Methodist employees, as well as patients covered by Health insurance supplement, were exempt at the end of the United Healthcare contract at the start of the year.

“We cannot in good conscience continue our relationship with United as the administrator of our employee medical plan,” Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist, told employees in an email.

Boom alleged that UnitedHealthcare continued to offer “unreasonable” rates at the bargaining table.

Houston Methodist has called for reimbursement rate increases in its negotiations, according to UnitedHealthcare.

“It is unfortunate that Methodists have not wanted to actively participate in meaningful negotiations or recognize that this is driving up the cost of health care for the people of Houston and the health care system in general,” said Cole Manbeck, door – spoken by UnitedHealthcare.

Houston Methodist and Cigna also said they have entered into a long-term agreement to keep the hospital system in Cigna’s network, allowing the insurer’s customers to continue to see hospital doctors at lower rates in the network. . The contract, which was due to be renewed in early June, “guarantees access to quality care … at predictable and affordable rates,” said Houston Methodist and Cigna.

Cigna, the nation’s fourth largest health insurance company, has approximately 500,000 customers in Houston. The company declined to specify the length of the long-term agreement, other than saying it was “several years.”

Houston Methodist prolonged fight with UnitedHealthcare started in October, when the insurer announcement this would remove the hospital system from its network. Since December, Houston Methodist has bombarded TV stations, billboards and even the Houston Chronicle with ads blaming UnitedHealthcare.

The deal between Houston Methodist and Cigna takes on a very different tone from the recent breaches of contract at some of Houston’s largest hospital networks and major insurance companies.


As healthcare costs rise, employers are pressuring their insurers to spend less, which has led to controversial negotiations between insurers and providers in recent years.

Cigna announced in December that it would end its contract with Memorial Hermann, removing some 1,460 affiliated physicians from its network and affecting 178,000 clients. Both sides said they were going extend network status to April to allow for a longer contract negotiation period.

gwendolyn.wu@chron.com

Twitter: @gwendolynawu


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