By Richard Asinof
WESTERLY – A new, two-year contract between Westerly Hospital and UnitedHealthcare of New England was reached late Thursday afternoon, according to hospital officials.
“With this new agreement in place, concerns within our community that UnitedHealthcare would at some point no longer provide coverage for care provided at Westerly Hospital can be allayed,” said Charles S. Kinney, the hospital’s president and CEO.
In September, the contract dispute had escalated when the health insurer sent out letters to Medicare supplemental insurance subscribers notifying them that they would no longer be covered for services at The Westerly Hospital as of Oct. 15. This action was taken to comply with federal guidelines, according to UnitedHealthcare spokeswoman Anayo Afolabi. The subscribers were members of a Medicare supplemental insurance program managed by UnitedHealthcare.
“We are pleased with a contract that provides for improved reimbursements and helps strengthen the hospital’s financial position, and we are most grateful for the support from our patients, our physicians, and the business community during this process,” Kinney said. “Naturally, it is a negotiated agreement with give and take on both sides, and we arrived at an arrangement we can work with.”
United Healthcare is expected to send notification to its enrollees that will confirm Westerly Hospital remains a provider within their network, according to hospital officials.
The contract agreement comes during a transitional time for Westerly Hospital, a 125-bed community hospital. In September, the hospital announced that it was exploring a new partnership with Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, because it could not longer financially afford to continue to go it alone. In June, the hospital reported a $5.2 million operating loss during the first seven months of its fiscal year, three times more than budgeted.