CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Associates (CEENTA) has dropped all of its patients insured by UnitedHealthcare as of Sept. 5.
The change comes after a months-long negotiation between CEENTA and United that has no solution, at least for now. Patients are now scrambling to find care at other providers that are booked out for months.
Bond Isaacson takes his 86-year-old mother-in-law to CEENTA to treat her eye disease called macular degeneration.
"She needs to see a retinal specialist every 15 weeks," Isaacson explained to WCNC Charlotte.
However, when they showed up to her appointment this week, they were turned away.
"What we were told was they would not accept UnitedHealthcare patients," Isaacson recalled. "We even went as far as to say, 'What if we just pay cash for everything?' They said, 'We will not service UnitedHealthcare patients.'"
Charlotte, Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat explains on its website its contract with United expired in May and they haven’t been able to agree on new terms. So, on Tuesday it dropped all patients insured by United.
Isaacson said he was aware of the continued negotiations and that CEENTA may no longer accept his mother-in-law's health insurance. However, he is upset the office denied care when they tried to pay for her essential treatment without insurance.
"The last time we were there they accepted out of network," Isaacson said.
WCNC Charlotte asked CEENTA via email why a patient would be turned away if they’re offering to pay without insurance, but a media representative didn’t directly answer the question. Instead, they said patients have been notified they no longer accept United.
"I do think that it is wrong almost to the point of being criminal, to not allow patients to pay to get service," Isaacson said.
Isaacson said it's been a headache trying to find a new provider at the same time as everyone else who is being denied care.
"It's, 'We can see you in December, we can see you in February.' Well for someone who has what my mother-in-law has, February or December is not soon enough," Isaacson shared.
After calling specialists for days, Isaacson said his wife was able to secure an appointment for her mom in Huntersville, but he knows others aren’t as lucky.
"There are a lot of elderly people unfortunately right now who can't get care and need it," Isaacson said.
Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat told WCNC Charlotte it's working with patients to help them find alternative care while it continues to negotiate with UnitedHealthcare.