- Cullman, Alabama


June 13, 2013

UnitedHealth's failure at Pentagon could risk future U.S. awards



"There have been major problems, but we are working with them on a resolution," said Rice, speaking of UnitedHealth.

The insurer still owes the center $97,000, and "we have had to rebill everything because they didn't have their stuff set up properly," she said in a phone interview.

UnitedHealth has contacted the Alpine Autism Center, addressing "their specific payment concerns," said Jasurda, the insurer's spokesman.

Linn, who is on the autism center's volunteer board of directors, said she is concerned that the provider will cut treatment options for military families while her husband, an Air Force colonel, is deployed overseas. He is set to go to Afghanistan in September.

"If my kids can't go to Alpine, I'll have to take a leave of absence from work," said Linn, 49, a facility engineer at Peterson Air Force Base. "This is an established service that has been provided to military families for four or five years. Why all of a sudden, when UnitedHealth comes in, is it being treated differently?"

UnitedHealth's delays affected members of the Tricare Prime plan, which has about 1.6 million beneficiaries in the region served by the company.

The Pentagon stepped in to grant a temporary waiver so beneficiaries could get specialty care without UnitedHealth's authorization and not incur penalties. That waiver has been extended through June 18.

The Defense Department hasn't yet decided whether it will recoup costs from UnitedHealth, said Austin Camacho, a spokesman for Tricare.

The military probably won't terminate the contract, said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, a consulting company based in McLean, Va.

"It's much more likely and typical for them to ask a contractor for remedial action, to pay them back money and establish a workout plan," Allen said in a phone interview.

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