ST. LOUIS - One of the largest insurance companies in the country is dropping some St. Louis area specialists from its coverage. And, that could leave seniors looking for new doctors.
The changes concern Medicare Advantage coverage through UnitedHealthcare, and according to some local doctors, it could affect thousands of St. Louis area patients.
Dr. George Hruza is a Chesterfield dermatologist who works with skin cancer patients. He says UnitedHealthcare has dropped him and about half of all dermatologists in the St. Louis area. And other specialists could be affected, too.
UnitedHealthcare says these changes are due to "market dynamics" and says it is working to make the transition to a new doctor as smooth as possible for patients. United says it will still have one of the largest networks of doctors in the area, but Dr. Hruza says there is more to good medicine.
"There's nothing wrong with the other physicians," said Dr. Hruz. "It's just that those patients who have developed that relationship, especially senior citizens, it's not going to be easy for them to say, 'Okay, I'll go to someone I've never seen and kind of start all over again.'"
United says patients, and doctors, can apply for exceptions to these changes. The company is encouraging people to call the number on the back of their insurance cards for more information.
UnitedHealthcare released the following statement to NewsChannel 5:
"We believe these changes will improve the health care experience for UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage members in the St. Louis area. At the same time, we understand that any plan changes can be unsettling. We are working to make the transition to a new doctor as smooth as possible, and will do all that we can to prevent interruptions in care. We urge UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan members to call our customer service number on their member ID card if they have any concerns or questions."