UnitedHealth Group, which reported 2013 third-quarter earnings of $1.6 billion on revenue of $30.6 billion, said it would continue to offer broad choices and an expansive Medicare Advantage network. “We believe this will ultimately provide better outcomes for our members while we and others manage through severe government funding cuts and other factors impacting Medicare Advantage,” United spokeswoman Tracey Lempner said.
On Oct. 15, United announced it had reached an agreement in principle with the AARP to offer through the year 2020 “a portfolio of AARP-branded products” including Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and other Medicare supplements.
Dr. Michael Hunt, chief medical and chief medical information officer for the Bridgeport, Conn.-based St. Vincent Health Partners Physician Hospital Organization, said United's termination of physicians from its Medicare Advantage networks ran counter to AARP's senior advocacy efforts. “How is this taking care of Medicare patients?” Hunt asked, adding that the “abrupt” terminations are not conducive to efforts within his state to promote care continuation.
AARP spokesman David Allen acknowledged that his organization has “heard from a small number” of members regarding United's action. “Recently, UnitedHealthcare adopted a new approach to managing the provider networks for their Medicare Advantage plans to meet the specific needs of their members,” Allen said. He added that AARP has “no direct influence or control” over UnitedHealth Group's course, and that the income AARP receives from branding arrangements helps lower membership dues and is also “plowed back” into AARP programs and services to improve the lives of people ages 50 years and older.
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