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United HealthCare & Florida Hospital Dispute Almost Cancels My PET Scan

Posted Sep 16 2010 1:33pm

Florida Hospital

I had my six-month PET scans this morning.  If these scans come back clean, I will officially be two years into remission.  I am, as you can imagine, terribly anxious to get the results.  I should get a call from my doctor’s office tomorrow with the result.  Until then, I will be one big bundle of anxiety.

The scans almost didn’t happen.  My cancer treatments have always been managed by the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute .  My health insurance is through United HealthCare .  For months, they have been in serious contract dispute .  Of course the dispute was about money and not the quality of the care patients receive.  How much can Florida Hospital charge for services to UHC?  How much will UHC actually cover?  Yesterday’s negotiated rates were up for renewal and each side was trying to squeeze the most out of the other.

If they couldn’t reach an agreement, over 400,000 UHC policy holders in Florida would be forced to pay out-of-network premiums for all services rendered by FL Hospital.

United Healthcare

The deadline came. . . and passed.  No agreement.  A 30-day extension was granted so they could continue negotiations.  September 14th, 11:59pm, was the new deadline.

My scans were scheduled for September 16th, 9:00am.  If the two corporations couldn’t come to an agreement I would have to find all new cancer doctors, not part of the FL Hospital network, to continue my cancer care.

Fortunately, the agreement was reached about 2:00am, hours after the deadline.  I was able to get my PET scans.

I blogged six months ago about the PET Scan Routine .  If you’re interested in exactly what happens when you get a PET scan, read that blog.

Anyway, I sure am glad that I don’t have to shop around for new doctors.  As most cancer patients and survivors can attest, we tend to form very personal and intimate relationships with our doctors.  Once you find a doctor you can communicate with, trust, and work with you tend to latch on and not let go.  Just so with me.

My doctors are fantastic:

Dr. Philip Dunn

Dr. Philip Dunn

Dr. Philip Dunn is my medical oncologist.  He coordinated my chemotherapy.  I see him every few months; he manages my blood counts, the thyroid issues that arose as a result of my treatment, and has the best dry sense of humor of any doctor I have ever met.   He was the first doctor to congratulate me after my first set of clean scans and looked me in the eye and said “We can go another 38 years without cancer in your body and I’ll be very happy.”

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Dr. David Diamond

Dr. David Diamond

Dr. David Diamond is my radiation oncologist.  In addition to the 7 weeks of radiation therapy, he coordinated my entire cancer regime.  He is the central point for all of my doctors.  He scheduled my PET scans and compiled the notes from all the doctors.  He is the first person I call if I ever have a question.  He managed the morbidity of my radiation treatments, including the insertion of the PEG tube in my belly for nutrition when I lost the ability to swallow.  He is a great doctor and we chat about a lot of things every time I visit.  We had a lengthy discussion about the movie “Inglorious Basterds” during my last visit.

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Dr. Henry Ho

Dr. Henry Ho

Dr. Henry Ho is my surgeon.  Actually another doctor in the practice, Dr. Lee, was my surgeon but he moved to Texas and Dr. Ho picked up my care.  It was the office of Dr. Ho that first diagnosed me with cancer.  Dr. Ho has a very easygoing manner that makes me feel comfortable every time I visit him.  He checks my throat for cancer, inspects my entire sinus cavity, and coordinates with the rest of the team who handles my care.  I can’t say I have as close a relationship with Dr. Ho as I do with my other care providers, but that’s because Dr. Ho didn’t come into the game for me until I was already on my road to recovery.  Dr. Lee was my initial surgeon and was the doctor who started me on the road of cancer survivorship.

And that’s why it’s so important to me to keep my doctors, people.  I’ve been with Dr. Ho for over a year now, but he just isn’t as close to me as the others are.  Not because he is less of a doctor – in fact Dr. Lee told me time and again Dr. Ho should do my surgery because he was so much more experienced than himself.  I opted for Dr. Lee to do the surgery because I had a relationship with him and we had established trust.

The fear of losing my doctors has been driving me batty for weeks.  All of my doctors are part of the Florida Hospital network and I would have been forced to abandon all of the if the agreement hadn’t been reached.

I’m glad the dispute is over – but I am angry at the system that allowed over 400,000 people to get so close to losing coverage and trusted doctors.


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