UnitedHealth billing flaws persisted as company grew

UnitedHealth has been sanctioned in nine states in the past seven years for paying claims slowly–shortchanging doctors, hospitals or patients, or poorly handling their complaints and appeals. The payment problems related to an array of medical care, from ER visits to specialist referrals to oral surgery on children.

UnitedHealth executives informed investors last week that poor service had jeopardized its physician relationships and caused them to lose customers. They claimed their rapid growth was largely to blame for the billing problems, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The errors have occurred in many states and are almost always linked to UnitedHealth’s bill-processing computer systems, the Star Tribune reports. Because of its size, a small error rate creates big problems, generating appeals that can become major paperwork hassles.

In August, UnitedHealth signed an unprecedented agreement with 37 states to resolve the problems over three years.

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