Deadline looms in contract dispute between Phoenix Children’s and UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare and Phoenix Children's have before June 1 to make a deal for uninterrupted service; otherwise, families may have to pay out of pocket.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 12:45 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — At the end of today, Wednesday, an estimated 17,000 children in Arizona will lose in-network access to their doctors if Phoenix Children’s and UnitedHealthcare fail to reach an agreement in an ongoing contract dispute. The two have been locked in negotiations for months.

In a new joint statement sent to On Your Side, the two seemed to signal cooperation. “UnitedHealthcare and Phoenix Children’s are working hard to renew our relationship. We both remain fully committed to reaching an agreement that meets the needs of the families we mutually serve in Arizona,” the statement said.

Parents are frustrated their children’s care is in jeopardy. “We know businesses are businesses, and I understand that,” said Misty Walden, the mom of an 8-year-old who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “Unfortunately, it’s about money for both of these places, and I really wish that the patients could just be the center focus of all of this.”

Another parent told On Your Side about the specialized treatments her son receives at Phoenix Children’s. “There simply isn’t another doctor here in Arizona with the expertise in treating his rare condition,” she said. “I’ll still take my son to Phoenix Children’s because there’s no place else in the west to go for his treatment. I’m a single mom, I do it all on my own, I pay premium top tier every paycheck, and now it will be even harder for us financially.”

If there is no agreement, patients who are in the middle of treatment for cancer, for example, can apply for continuing in-network coverage. Phoenix Children’s and UnitedHealthcare did not respond to On Your Side’s questions about how many patients had been granted continuity of coverage. The contract dispute does not impact coverage for children who have UnitedHealthcare’s Medicaid plan.

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