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The California Medical Association (CMA) has learned that UnitedHealthcare (UHC) is in the process of discontinuing physician payments via paper checks and will instead require both contracted and non-contracted physicians to receive payment via automated clearinghouse (ACH)/direct deposit or through virtual credit card payments.

The change, first communicated in UHC’s March 2020 Network Bulletin, was originally planned to be rolled out in phases beginning in mid-2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rollout of the program was delayed.

UHC has since announced in its August 2020 Network Bulletin that the program will move forward with a phased rollout beginning with its commercial line of business starting in August 2020.  UHC Medicare Advantage and Community and State (Medicaid) Plans will follow with rollouts slated for fall 2020 and early 2021.  

UHC will be publicizing the change to both contracted and noncontracted physicians, who will be directed to sign up for ACH/direct deposit through Optum Pay or via the UHCprovider.com/payment website. Physicians who do not elect to sign up for ACH/direct deposit will automatically be signed up to receive virtual credit card payments in place of paper checks. 

Physicians with questions or concerns, or that need to request a hardship exemption from this policy, should contact their UHC Provider Service Advocate or UHC at (877) 842-3210 for more information.

What is a virtual credit card?

With the virtual credit card (VCC) payment method, payors send credit card payment information and instructions to physicians, who process the payments using standard credit card technology.

This method is beneficial to payors, but costly for physicians. Health plans often receive cash-back incentives from credit card companies for VCC transactions. Meanwhile, VCC payments are subject to transaction and interchange fees, which are borne by the physician practice and can run as high as 5%per transaction for physician practices. Physicians can avoid these interchange fees by enrolling in ACH/direct deposit.

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