JEFFERSON CITY MO — The Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA), the state’s largest physician organization, is decrying a decision by UnitedHealthcare to terminate a large number of Missouri physicians from its Medicare Advantage provider network.

In late March, Missouri physicians began receiving letters from UnitedHealthcare, notifying them that they would be terminated from its Medicare Advantage network effective July 1.

Unilaterally removing physicians from that network will likely strand thousands of elderly and disabled Medicare patients without their personal physician, and force them to find a new physician in the middle of the enrollment year, and quite possibly in the middle of treatment for chronic illnesses.

MSMA sent a letter of concern to the President and CEO of UnitedHealth Group, and is working on behalf of its physicians and their patients to reverse or at least mitigate the insurance company’s decision.

Excerpts from the letter follow:

“On behalf of all Missouri physicians and their countless patients in every corner of this state, the Missouri State Medical Association strenuously objects to the recent decision by UnitedHealthcare (United) to unilaterally terminate vast numbers of physicians from its Medicare Advantage (MA) network effective July 1, 2014.”

“These terminations, which fall in the middle of the patients’ enrollment year, constitute an alarming threat to long-established physician-patient relationships, and an unconscionable hardship for those with conditions that require continuity of care and/or access to specialists.”

“So many of our elderly patients will now be forced to either find a new participating MA provider, or incur significant out-of-pocket costs to continue treatment with their personal “out-of-network” physician.  And that will prove particularly difficult for our patients with disabilities or limited incomes due to the geographic distances they may need to travel to obtain necessary care with a new physician.”

The complete letter can be viewed at