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Health Insurance

Major insurer agrees to extend in-network coverage for medical center

Nearly 2,000 Vermonters were covered by UnitedHealthcare who were slated on April 1 to lose their in-network health insurance coverage at hospitals belonging to the University of Vermont Health Network − including Burlington’s UVM Medical Center − have gotten a timely reprieve.

Both the UVM Health Network and United Healthcare announced Friday they have reached an agreement to extend in-network coverage through the end of the year, to give plan members more time to find other health insurance coverage.

The UVM Health Network includes three hospitals in upstate New York, in addition to three hospitals in Vermont.

Dr. Sunny Eappen, president and chief executive officer of the UVM Health Network, said in a statement he was glad the network’s patients would get the time they needed to find a replacement for UnitedHealthcare.

Staff care for a new arrival to the University of Vermont Medical Center Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Thursday, Dec.  2, 2021.

“This situation has caused a lot of stress and anxiety for our patients and we hope this extension helps to ease some of the pressure in the face of a frustrating situation,” Eappen said.

Will a long-term deal be reached?

UnitedHealthcare CEO Tim Archer said in a statement that the company’s “top priority” is ensuring access to health care. The Archer also held out hope that a long-term agreement could still be reached with UVMHN.

Jennifer Peasley, staff nurse at Porter Hospital in Middlebury, changes the sheets on one of the emergency department beds.  Porter is part of the UVM Health Network.

“This extension ensures the people and families we serve have continued access to UVMHN while we continue our good-faith efforts to reach a long-term contract with UVMHN that is affordable for Vermonters, New Yorkers and employers,” Archer said.

UVMHN was not optimistic that an agreement on a long-term contract with UnitedHealthcare could be reached.