MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The largest Medicaid provider in Mississippi is dropping Alabama hospitals from its coverage plans. The change from UnitedHealthcare goes into effect January 1.
That means United Medicaid members in South Mississippi will no longer be able to come to Mobile for treatment. For those who see specialists, the change will mean a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Jackson for equivalent treatment.
“Many patients are receiving treatment once or twice a week if their disease process requires that. That is going to require them to drive to Jackson for that once or twice a week,” said Christopher Jett, Hospital Administrator for USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
USA Health was notified by a letter about the change. Jett worries dropping coverage for Alabama hospitals will affect pregnant women in South Mississippi who need to have emergency deliveries. If the baby is born premature, the child could spend weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. If the mother is a United Medicaid member, she would not be covered.
UnitedHealthcare did not provide a reason for dropping Alabama hospitals from Mississippi Medicaid plans, but did release this statement:
“As part of our focus on ensuring the long-term strength and stability of our Community Plan in Mississippi, we continuously monitor the performance of our network of care providers and occasionally make changes. Our top priority is to ensure the people we serve have access to the care they need, and we are committed to working with the University of South Alabama and our members to help ensure they experience a smooth transition to a new care provider or health plan.”
UnitedHealthcare members who are in active treatment at a University of South Alabama facility or with a South Alabama physician would be able to continue receiving covered services even after the January 1 change through their Continuity of Care program. The change would affect new patients.
While there are three Medicaid providers in Mississippi, United covers the majority. United members have the option to change providers to either Magnolia Health or Molina Healthcare. Both will continue to keep USA Health in their coverage plans.
Jett does want to make it clear that they will never turn anyone away because of their insurance coverage. “If you need us, we will continue to be here for you,” said Jett.
USA Health officials say they are actively trying to work with UnitedHealthcare to come up with a solution.
After our story first aired, officials with UntiedHelathcare reached out to now say that emergency services will be covered, regardless of what hospital a patient goes to. That information was not in their initial statement to News 5.