Phoenix Children's Hospital, UnitedHealthcare reach multi-year deal

17,000 kids are going to keep their coverage at Phoenix Children's Hospital after a late deal was reached with UnitedHealthcare.

The insurance provider announced the agreement Thursday morning, hours after their last contract expired. Coverage was set to end at 12 a.m. on June 1 if no deal was reached.

"UnitedHealthcare is pleased to reach a multi-year agreement with Phoenix Children’s that ensures the families we serve have continued, uninterrupted access to the care they need," the insurer said in a statement. "Our top priority throughout the negotiation was ensuring these families and children have access to quality health care from the doctors and care providers they know and trust, and this agreement accomplishes that goal."

Letters will be sent out to families who were impacted by the negotiations informing them of the renewal.

Since the beginning of May, the two entities had struggled to strike a deal, putting thousands of families at risk of losing coverage.

UnitedHealthcare says Phoenix Children's wanted a 30% price hike. The hospital said it needed an agreement that allows them to provide the highest quality of care to their patients.

Specific details about the agreement were not released, but PCH and UnitedHealthcare will continue to have a working relationship for at least the next few years.

In between the two sides were thousands of families waiting for a resolution.

'This isn't pro sports'

Lunchtime at Brock's house devolves quickly into fun. Lots of laughs as he runs through a blanket fort with his brother.

But, underlying all the fun in this house is a ticking clock.

"It's a game of corporate chicken," says Eric Koziatek.

His family has UnitedHealthcare and as of the afternoon of May 31, they had no answer.

"That extra stress is definitely not needed, not welcomed but unfortunately, we'll have to deal with it," Koziatek said.

His son Brock has a tumor growing on his optic nerve.

"I know it's behind my eye, my right eye," Brock said.

Eighteen months of chemo stopped its growth. He got to know his doctors, and of course, he counts on them.

"There was this little vending machine. There were mustache stickers, so I put it on me and when Dr. Mangum came in the room, I showed him the mustache and he laughed," Brock said.

"Not only does he know Brock's history, he remembers it. It's memorized. He doesn't have to look at his records to pull up things. He knows what's happened the last couple of years. But the fact you walk into a room, and you see him there, you feel at ease because it's someone you know and trust," Koziatek said.

After recent mixed test results, an upcoming September MRI is crucial.

Like some families, they've been offered an exemption for continuing care, but it will only last three months.

That September MRI is past the expiration date.

"This isn't pro sports. It's not like you have time to be able to negotiate and players can go on strike. That's a game. Totally different. This is lives," the father said.

Midnight, 12 a.m. on June 1, is when coverage ended if no deal was reached. Now, it appears that coverage will continue, providing some relief for children and their affected families.

Phoenix Children's and UnitedHealthcare posted information for families giving guidance about what to do and exactly who is affected: