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No. 2 insurer signs contract <br> UnitedHealth gets access to provider

UnitedHealth Group, the nation's No. 2 health insurer, has signed a provider contract with Buffalo Medical Group, giving the 15,000 members of the insurer's UnitedHealthcare subsidiary in three Western New York counties "in-network" access to the region's largest private medical practice.

Effective immediately, UnitedHealthcare's commercial plan members in Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties, as well as in nearby counties in Pennsylvania, can use Buffalo Medical's diagnostic, medical and surgical services.

"We value our new relationship with Buffalo Medical Group, a leading provider of health care services in upstate New York," said Brian Genalo, director for UnitedHealthcare's upstate region.

Buffalo Medical includes 100 physicians in 27 locations, representing more than 30 specialties and affiliated with all the major local hospitals. Many are also University at Buffalo faculty members. Its three primary sites are 85 High St. on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, 295 Essjay Road in Amherst and 3345 Southwestern Blvd. in Orchard Park.

"Buffalo Medical Group is pleased to have signed a new agreement with UnitedHealthcare, as this helps ensure more residents in Erie and adjacent counties have access to quality and affordable health care services," said Daniel Scully, CEO of Buffalo Medical Group.

"We look forward to building on our relationship with UnitedHealthcare."

The agreement is a major coup for United, which has struggled to make inroads in Western New York since announcing in November 2006 that it would seek to compete locally with the area's three big nonprofit insurers for the general small-group market.

Those carriers -- HealthNow New York's BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health Association and Excellus Health Plan's Univera Healthcare -- have long dominated the Buffalo Niagara market.

Nationwide, United serves about 25 million consumers in 28 states and has contracts with more than 600,000 physicians and 5,000 hospitals. Locally its network includes 18 hospitals and 6,000 doctors, less than half that of the three nonprofits.


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