Orlando Sentinel, September 16, 2010

After 10 months and two extensions, Florida Hospital and United Healthcare agreed to a four-year contract that allows the insurer's 400,000 Central Florida customers to continue using the hospital system's facilities and doctors at in-network prices without any interruption of care.

Neither side would provide details of the contract, which was signed at about 2 a.m. Wednesday. But in recent days, United officials told local employers that, after agreeing on pricing, the two sides were tangling over "quality issues."

Insurers have been pressing "quality issues" in recent years, said Becky Cherney, president of the Florida Health Care Coalition. At a time when health-care costs are skyrocketing, insurers are balking at paying for such things as hospital readmissions when patients develop some preventable infections or pneumonia while in the hospital.

Although the drawn-out contract talks irked many patients and insurance customers, these sorts of contentious negotiations may become the norm in the near future.

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