Make us your home page
Instagram

Regulators outline liquidation plan for Universal Health Care

ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Buchanan, a 77-year-old retiree in New Port Richey, got a jolt when his favorite primary-care physician said he would no longer honor his Universal Health Care coverage.

Likewise, Universal member Joan Diamond of Apollo Beach worries about who will cover her when she goes in for eye surgery.

"I'm in my 80s, and stuff like this really throws me for a loop," she said.

Their saga is quickly coming to a close.

Florida regulators on Friday unveiled their fast-track plan to liquidate Universal Health Care Group by the end of the month, dispatching its 140,000 members to other health plans and putting hundreds of Universal employees out of work. As of earlier this year, Universal had nearly 1,000 employees, most of them at its St. Petersburg headquarters.

Two related Universal companies are slated to automatically go into liquidation at 12:01 a.m. April 1: Universal Health Care Insurance, which has about 37,500 Medicare policyholders, and Universal Health Care Inc., an HMO with about 60,000 Medicaid members and 40,000 Medicare members.

Separately, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said it is reassigning the approximately 57,000 Medicaid recipients who are enrolled in Universal to other health plans.

"The agency has made every effort to ensure that recipients will be assigned to a plan that will allow them to have the same primary-care physician," AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek said in a statement.

Over the next week, Medicare and Medicaid members who were in either of the two plans will receive letters explaining their options from either AHCA or the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The state launched a formal investigation into Universal's finances in August, and on Feb. 4 filed suit to take over the insurer, which it had deemed virtually insolvent at the time. State investigators accused Universal executives of a broad pattern of financial mismanagement, including fraud and diversion of funds.

Since then, Universal's status has been in flux as to whether it would be sold or liquidated. Founder and CEO A.K. Desai has maintained control of Universal, albeit losing a stream of both employees and health care providers willing to keep Universal in their network.

Thursday's ruling by a 2nd Circuit Court judge to place Universal into receivership ceded control to the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Buchanan, the New Port Richey Universal member, says he's getting tired of waiting for the state to act and might take matters into his own hands.

"I'm just going to go to Humana," he said, "and I'm done with it."

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

.Fast facts

Numbers to call for help

Consumers with questions regarding Universal Health Care coverage for the rest of this month should continue to contact Universal's consumer assistance representatives toll-free at 1-866-690-4842.

As of the liquidation date of April 1, consumers should direct questions to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 1-800-633-4227 if they have Medicare policies with either of the two Universal companies affected.

Consumers who are Medicaid members of the Universal HMO should contact the Agency for Health Care Administration toll-free at 1-866-467-4970 if in Broward, Baker, Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. Medicaid recipients in all other counties should call 1-888-367-6554.

For any other questions, Floridians can call the state chief financial officer's insurance consumer helpline at (850) 413-3089 or visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

Regulators outline liquidation plan for Universal Health Care 03/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 9:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

    Teachers

    LAND O'LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.

    Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, left, hold contract talks Nov. 9, with district negotiators. The sides are nearing an agreement.
  2. Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

    Business

    Some smaller retailers will tug at shoppers' heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide.

    Some smaller retailers will tug at shoppers’ heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide. Keep St. Pete Local is an independent business alliance in St. Petersburg that has more than 600 members.
  3. Six years and counting: Allegiant Air reaches agreement with flight attendants

    Airlines

    ST. PETERSBURG — After six years of negotiations, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air and its flight attendants union reached a tentative contract to improve worker pay and benefits and solidify airline policies.

    Allegiant Air flight attendants picketed for a fair contract in August at various Florida airports.
  4. Fourth Street's mom and pop motels a dying breed

    Tourism

    ST. PETERSBURG — Billboards as far north as Tennessee beckoned tourists by the thousands to St. Petersburg's Fourth Street calling it "the longest motel street in the world" in the 1940s and '50s. There were 95 motels between the Gandy Bridge and Central Avenue in 1955, according to an article that year in the …

    Looking south down Fourth Street from 38th Avenue N, the street is jam-packed with motels — and El Cap.
  5. More guns being detected at Tampa Bay area airports — and everywhere else

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Here's some travel math for this traditionally heavy day for long trips: More people carrying guns plus more people flying equals more guns going to the airport.

    This is one of four guns security personnel discovered at Tampa International Airport checkpoints on April 25, 2017. Photo courtesy Transportation Security Administration