Important Information about Our Relationship with Houston Methodist

For the last several months, we’ve been in active negotiations with Houston Methodist to renew our relationship so that our employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare Advantage members have continued access to Methodist’s hospitals and physicians.

Unfortunately we have been unable to reach an agreement, which means the following Methodist hospitals are out of network, effective Jan. 1, 2020: 

  • Houston Methodist Hospital
  • Houston Methodist the Woodlands Hospital
  • Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital
  • Houston Methodist West Hospital
  • Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital
  • Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital
  • Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital

Please note: Methodist’s physician contract runs through March 31, 2020.

Although we worked hard to try to move things forward with the negotiations, little progress was made, largely because Methodist refused to address its high costs. Every time we attempted to reach a compromise during the negotiations, Methodist responded with proposals showing that it is intent on maintaining its position as one of the most expensive health systems in the country.

Rather than showing a willingness to compromise and find a middle ground, Methodist has dug in its heels and demanded increases in its reimbursement rates that total in the double digits over the next few years. These rate increases are simply unsustainable for the employer customers and members we serve.

In short, its demands throughout the negotiations brought into question Methodist’s interest in reaching an agreement.

It’s unfortunate that Methodist has been unwilling to actively participate in meaningful negotiations or to acknowledge that it’s driving up the cost of health care for the people of Houston and the health care system overall. Instead Methodist has chosen to spend its time and money blanketing the airwaves with ads and erecting billboards.

Our commitment to those we serve

We appreciate that the role Methodist plays in Houston and the surrounding communities is not only important but also personal. We know many families and individuals we serve value having access to Methodist’s hospitals and are rightfully concerned by this news. We assure you we remain open to continued conversations with Methodist and are committed to restoring in-network access to Methodist’s hospitals at rates that are more affordable for the companies and members we serve.

Our primary focus at this time is ensuring that our members have uninterrupted access to the care they need and supporting them as they transition to new care providers. We know that network changes can be difficult, but our members can rest assured that they will continue to have access to high-quality, affordable care close to where they live and work.

  • We’re privileged to have strong relationships with more than 90 hospitals and thousands of primary care physicians and specialists in the Houston area that provide quality, affordable care and are ready to care for our members. Our members can use the provider directories on their member website (myuhc.com for employer-sponsored plans; myAARPMedicare.com for Medicare Advantage plans) to find alternative in-network providers. They can also call the number on the back of their health plan ID card if they need assistance finding a new provider. Our customer care advocates stand ready to serve them.
  • For our members who are actively undergoing treatment at Methodist facilities, continuity of care may be available, which would provide continued in-network benefits for a period of time. Our members should call the number on the back of their health plan ID card to see if they qualify for continuity of care. More information about continuity of care can be found in the “Important Information for UnitedHealthcare Members” box at the bottom of the page.
  • In the event of an emergency, members should always go to the nearest hospital. Emergency services will be covered as an in-network benefit regardless of the hospital’s participation in UnitedHealthcare’s network.

Making health care more affordable in Houston starts with Methodist

In order to renew our relationship, we need Methodist to address its high costs. The cost of care at Houston Methodist Hospital is 49% higher than the average cost at the four other Texas hospitals ranked in the top five in the state by U.S. News & World Report.

Methodist isn’t just the most expensive health system in Texas. It’s one of the most expensive in the entire country. Houston Methodist Hospital is 36% more expensive on average than four of the top five hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 rankings of the best hospitals in the United States. All four of those hospitals are highly prestigious and nationally known as the best in the country for people seeking top-quality health care. To illustrate the impact that Methodist’s high costs have on the people of Houston, consider that the cost of a CT scan at Houston Methodist Hospital is $1,401 more – or 146% higher – than the average cost at those four hospitals.

Providing access to top-quality care is our priority. But when quality care isn’t affordable, access suffers because businesses are forced to choose between providing access to expensive health care providers or growing their business.

For people in Houston enrolled in our employer-sponsored health plans, health care is more expensive than in any other city in Texas. Nearly 80 percent of the plan participants we serve in the Houston area are enrolled in self-funded plans, meaning their employers pay the cost of their employees' medical bills themselves. This is known as "self-funding," and it means money comes straight out of the company's bottom line to pay for medical expenses. So as the prices for health care continue to rise, less money is available to pay salaries, hire new workers or invest in new technologies.

Affordability in health care is a problem. The cost of care at Methodist is leading to consumers and companies paying more for health care and is no longer sustainable for the employer group customers and members we serve. In order to maintain a competitive business environment in Houston, we must get health care costs under control. And Methodist must be part of the solution. That is why we are asking Methodist to help make health care more affordable for people in the Houston area. 

How to find more information

UnitedHealthcare members with questions should call the number on their health plan ID card. We’ll also continue to post updates on this site to ensure our members have the information they need.

On behalf of our customers, members and the thousands of UnitedHealthcare employees who depend on Methodist for health care, we remain committed to reaching an agreement that helps ensure access to care at Houston Methodist that is both quality and affordable. 

Continuity of Care