UnitedHealthcare and the non-emergency emergency… Who Decides If You Need To Visit The Emergency Room?

UnitedHealthcare delayed a controversial decision to retroactively declare treatment in an emergency room not an emergency.

UnitedHealthcare and the non-emergency emergency…

Who Decides If You Need To Visit The Emergency Room?

On the latest edition of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast, respected neurologist and Houston Healthcare Initiative founder Dr. Steven Goldstein discusses the proposed UnitedHealthcare policy of after the fact review and in some cases possible denial of  some emergency room visits. The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on: SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Backtracks, LibSyn, Soundcloud, or the website at www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Declaring the Emergency, a Non-Emergency

UnitedHealthcare is the nation’s largest health care insurer. In early June 2021 UnitedHealthcare announced that it would change how they assess emergency department claims, and thus allow ‘United’ to retroactively deny claims it deemed “non-emergent” or not an emergency. The aim is for the insurance company and their customers to save money, but others say the consequences could be more costly or even deadly. The new policy was originally scheduled to begin on July 1, 2021 but after a wave of criticism from among others, the American College of Emergency Physicians, United backed off and later said they would wait until the pandemic was past to make a decision about this decision.

Bad Policy With Usual Solutions Tried

Like the American College of Emergency Physicians Dr. Goldstein also believes this policy is unwise. “The answer is not to retroactively deny payment for ER care already rendered,” he told his listeners. “What this does is force the hospitals to refuse care for “non-emergency care” as defined by UnitedHealthcare. However, this is not practical because the hospital is more afraid of a potential lawsuit if a patient is refused care and has a poor outcome as a result. The patient then will be stuck with a large bill that cannot be paid.”

Dr. Goldstein states this is another example of an insurance company trying to “manage care.” “They (insurance companies) see a problem, namely they think that Emergency Room services are over-utilized and think they can manage the problem,” Dr. Goldstein said. “They try their usual method of operation and simply deny payment.”

On The Other Hand

UnitedHealthcare claims there are big problems with the misuse of emergency rooms which costs the U.S. healthcare system roughly $32 billion annually. UnitedHealthcare states that misuse typically manifests as patients seek out costly care for minor ailments that could be addressed through other avenues like an urgent care type of clinic. According to the UnitedHealthcare web site, “two-thirds of hospital ED visits annually by privately insured individuals in the U.S. – 18 out of 27 million** – are avoidable.”

Does UnitedHealthcare Have A Point?

Dr. Goldstein stated that United had a point “if the point is that healthcare administered in an emergency room is too expensive.” But he also point out, “UnitedHealthcare negotiated the prices they pay with the hospitals. If it is too expensive, why did they negotiate such a high price?”

About the Houston Healthcare Initiative Podcast

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To hear the podcast go to:

Dr. Goldstein insists that for the health and welfare of the American public, the congress must pass reforms that limit the influence of the pharmaceutical industry and its lobby.