The brawl between Tampa Bay's largest hospital system and UnitedHealthcare has drawn the attention of the national AARP, which markets its name on some of the Medicare Advantage plans affected.
The contract between the insurer and BayCare Health System expired Monday, with both sides unable to reach an agreement over costs. The move means thousands of United members have only limited access to major hospitals including Morton Plant-Mease, St. Joseph's and St. Anthony's.
The Medicare open enrollment period ends Dec. 7, so many seniors are trying to decide whether to stick with AARP/United plans, or go with a competitor that includes BayCare hospitals.
In a statement, senior vice president David Mathis said that AARP isn't intervening directly. "However, it is our understanding that UnitedHealthcare intends to work with BayCare in the hopes of resolving this situation," he said.
He also noted that United intends to honor claims for Medicare Advantage patients who get care at BayCare hospitals at in-network rates through the end of 2013. (BayCare officials have said that prior approval still is needed for non-emergency services.)
AARP encourages members of United's Medicare Advantage plans to call the customer service number on the back of their insurance cards to learn more about their options.