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As the standoff between Erlanger Health System and UnitedHealthcare continues, both are turning to an age-old breakup ploy: Bragging about their new partners.

On Wednesday, United touted an “expanded” partnership with Erlanger’s rival CHI Memorial Health Care System.

The new partnership means Memorial will now be in-network for patients who have Medicaid and Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans through United. People with United coverage that is employer-sponsored, individual or Medicare Advantage already had access to Memorial.

Meanwhile, Erlanger has lauded its own new partnership with United’s competitor, Amerigroup, which will add Erlanger to its TennCare and Medicare Advantage networks starting Jan. 1.

Erlanger went out of network with United’s Medicaid plan in October. Hospital officials claimed they had to take a stand after United made a pattern of offering unfair reimbursement rates.

Meanwhile, United has said that Erlanger has refused a fair deal, and is holding patients hostage in its negotiations.

The hospital has said that if an agreement about the Medicaid reimbursements cannot be made, that it will terminate its commercial contracts with United as well. That contract is set to expire Dec. 31 if the two parties do not reach an agreement, which could impact thousands in the Chattanooga area whose employers area offer United insurance.

The feud has been especially disruptive for families with children, as Erlanger is the area’s only children’s hospital, and for older patients who are insured through TennCare CHOICES supplemental insurance, like a program offered through the AARP.

In statements about their respective new partnerships, both Erlanger and United made the point to praise the “collaborative” and “fair” natures of their new partners.

“CHI Memorial has been a collaborative network partner and is an important, local provider of health care services,” Rita Johnson-Mills, president of UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan in Tennessee, said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, Erlanger CEO Kevin M. Spiegel said of the agreement with Amerigroup: “In this rapidly changing healthcare environment, fair partnerships with insurance companies are vital to sustaining high-quality, cost-effective care.”

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison Belz at kbelz@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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