Albany -- Recent changes may not be enough to have a network of doctors in place before January.
Few new doctors signed on to the company's list of providers by the deadline for workers to sign up with United Healthcare. "The doctors are nervous, apprehensive. The United HealthCare contract had provisions in it that were just totally unacceptable," said Dr. Robert Pilcher Orthopedist, and Chairman of the Albany Physician's Health Organization.
Three major changes were negotiated by the Governor's office eased some fears, but Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and hundreds of area doctors still have not signed on with United HealthCare.
Until yesterday United was unwilling to negotiate with south Georgia physicians. That left teachers, state employees, and retirees stuck with a minimal network of doctors.
Southwest Georgia doctors say initial contracts offered by United HealthCare, the state's new medical provider, simply weren't good enough. "Taking care of the teachers and all of the state workers is so important to us, but the provisions that United came in with would have put us in financial ruin," Pilcher said.
Recent changes forced by Governor Sonny Perdue, have resolved two of the biggest complaints, but 250 area doctors say they need more. "They're a huge step forward, the doctors I've talked to in the PHO this morning, they seem much more optimistic about what happened yesterday," Dr. Pilcher said.
Contracts that force doctors to accept other insurance company plans top the list of 20 complaints that doctors say need to be addressed.
"They can change the contract without our permission, they can lower the fees without our permission, we only have a 90 day period to file claims," said Dr. Timothy Turlock of Albany Urology Clinic.
Doctors also worry that United wants to force them to sign on for at least a year, and that many doctors who have done that want out of the deal. "I've heard that doctors in Tifton and Columbus were pulling out," Pilcher said.
And promises made by the Governor's office to state employees and teachers that there will be a network of doctors in place by January may go too far. "For the life of me I can't see how he can make that promise. We want to do the right thing, we want to help teachers, but the governor can't make me sign this contract," said Trulock.
United HealthCare agreed to meet Monday night with area physicians and the state to work through problems. A time and place for the meeting still needs to be determined.