Patients relieved as Premier Health, UnitedHealthcare reach deal

SPRINGBORO, Ohio (WDTN) – As Premier Health and UnitedHealthcare reach a new agreement, many patients in the Miami Valley say they’re relieved, but some are also unsure if they will return to their old doctors.

The new, multi-year deal comes after Premier Health and UnitedHealthcare’s previous agreement expired in May. For the past eight months, United Healthcare patients were out-of-network at Premier, forcing many people to find new doctors.

As of April, roughly 70,000 people who were patients of Premier were covered by UnitedHealthcare.

“It’s just a lot of uncertainty, and when you’re in the middle of all this, trying to recover – I had additional surgery recently – it’s just traumatizing,” said Premier Health patient Suzanne Geisler.

It has been a difficult eight months for Geisler. She has been through several surgeries and physical therapy after a serious car crash in 2016. On top of that, she said, she had to find new doctors.

“It’s just a lot to think about,” Geisler said. “When you need to put your energy in healing, you really need to think about getting better and not where am I going to go for treatment?”

Geisler is covered by UnitedHealthcare through her husband’s employer, and all of her doctors were under Premier.

Some doctors allowed her to pay an additional $5 in co-pay to stay, she said. But she had to go elsewhere for some other services. That included saying goodbye to her primary care physician of more than 20 years.

According to Ben Sutherly, a Premier Health spokesperson, primary care physicians in the Premier Physician Network and sports medicine doctors offered UnitedHealthcare patients treatment for a $25 co-pay through the end of 2017.

“This opportunity was created to minimize disruptions in care for these patients during the middle of a benefit year,” he said in an e-mail Wednesday morning.

“I’ve done all this research,” Geisler said. “I have a new doctor. Should I keep her, should I go back? How long is this deal going to be for?”

We reached out to both sides to find out more about the details of the agreement. According to Sutherly, the new contract lasts three years and three months, running through March 2021.

In terms of coverage for UnitedHealthcare patients, they are again able to access Premier Heath facilities and doctors for in-network rates, Sutherly said.

“The negotiations were very complicated, and it took time and a great deal of perseverance for Premier Health and UnitedHealthcare to find common ground that ensured Premier Health patients/UHC members would have choice,” he said.

A spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare, Tony Marusic, sent us a statement, saying, “The details of our contract are confidential, however, we are pleased with the renewed relationship and how it will promote quality, affordable care for the people in the Dayton community.”

Premier Health leaders said they’re also pleased with the new deal. In a statement, president and CEO Mary Boosalis said, “We are very happy to have found common ground and a way that Premier Health and UnitedHealthcare can work collaboratively to extend quality, patient-centered care in our communities.”

Meanwhile, Suzanne Geisler said she is relieved but is still frustrated it took so long.

“People want to feel secure in their choices,” she said. “They don’t want to feel like in the back of their mind, ‘Oh, I might have to change doctors.'”

According to officials, the new deal went into effect New Year’s Day. The new agreement also covers Medicare Advantage patients.

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