JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It began with a phone call.
"Informing me that Universal Health Care will no longer be in service," said Helen Townes.
Townes is just one of the 37,500 Medicare policy holders in Florida using the Universal Health Care Company. A Florida judge ordered the company to liquidate as of April 1st because it found the company unable to pay its debts.
Now the company is going into receivership, which means the state would take it over. The company's offices in St. Petersburg were raided on Thursday.
On Universal Health Care's website, a news release from February 14, 2013 assures customers that despite filing for bankruptcy, its services will not be interrupted. Yet just over a month later, Townes and thousand of others are scrambling to find another provider.
She is now with United Healthcare, but worries about those that may not have gotten a call or letter.
"If someone was in the hospital, how would they know that they no longer have Universal Health Care as their provider?" asked Townes.
Isabella Leung, who works in media relations for the Centers for Medicare, said Universal customers will be enrolled into Medicare's program and enrolled into its prescription drug plan.
"Beneficiaries in the impacted plans have a special election period (SEP) during which they can make a change in their coverage, if they choose not to remain in original Medicare or the newly assigned prescription drug plan," Leung said via email. "This SEP is from now through May 31, 2013. A change in coverage resulting from an election by a beneficiary would be effective the 1st of the month after the month the request is received ... If a beneficiary calls 1-800-MEDICARE by March 31 and enrolls in a plan, the beneficiary's coverage in the plan will be effective on April 1."
First Coast News contacted several agencies around Florida and even the Health and Human Services Office in Washington. We were told a search warrant was being executed on one of the the Universal Health Care Company's offices in Florida. The Health and Human Services Offices says it couldn't elaborate on what specifically the officers were searching for.
The ABC affiliate in Tampa Bay reports 800 Universal Health Care employees also got pink slips.
"So a lot of people will be in a domino effect come April 1st, because they are ignorant of what is happening to Universal Health Care," says Townes.
Here are the numbers you can call to get help:
-If you are a Medicaid member with the Universal HMO in Broward, Baker, Clay, Duval or Nassau Counties, call Agency for Healthcare Administration at 1-866-467-4970. All other counties can call 1-888-367-6554
-For non-claims related questions regarding receivership, call the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-800-882-3054
First Coast News