Hughston Clinic, Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital renew contract with United Healthcare

After months of contract negotiations, Hughston Clinic and Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital have renewed their contract with United Healthcare.

The parties agreed on a three-year contract, which will go into effect Sunday. UHC members, which include employees of the Muscogee County School District and the State of Georgia, will then have in-network access for services offered through the local clinic and hospital.

The possibility of a consensus between the two parties was uncertain just four months ago — leaving about 800 patients in limbo. In July, Hughston management sent letters to those patients who could be affected to inform them discussions had already failed and the contract would be terminated. By that time, the parties had been negotiating intermittently for about six months.

UHC, however, told the Ledger-Enquirer the contract was not ending and they were still involved in negotiations.

Reimbursement rates were at issue. Hughston officials said UHC’s rates had been unreasonably reduced in the past few years; UHC said Hughston was asking for impracticable triple-digit increases.

Roger Rollman, UHC Southeast director of communications, said the two parties were able to meet in the middle.

“Statements in the past are statements in the past,” Rollman said. “Where we are at now is, we have a mutually acceptable contract...We’re delighted to have the clinic and hospital in-network and look forward to having our members use their services.”

Neither UHC or Hughston officials would disclose terms of the new deal.

Mark Baker, chief executive officer of the two medical facilities’ umbrella company Hughston Healthcare, also expressed his satisfaction with the contract.

“It’s one of the best arrangements that, I think, we have made with a payer in quite a long time, and it took a lot of effort on their part and our part,” Baker said. “I feel we gained a good understanding of one another and what we were (both) trying to achieve.”

Columbus-based Hughston Clinic is a multi-specialty orthopedic practice with nine offices in Georgia and Alabama. Phenix City’s Jack Hughston Memorial is a 70-bed hospital owned by a group of Hughston Clinic physicians.

UHC is an insurance company that’s part of Minneapolis, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group. It serves more than 25 million customers and contracts directly with about 590,000 physicians and health-care professionals and more than 4,900 hospitals across the country.