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New signs of hope for families facing loss of insurance coverage at Phoenix Children's

PCH, health insurer issue joint statement signaling they'll reach agreement on new contract. 17,000 families could lose coverage on June 1.

PHOENIX — There's a ray of hope for thousands of families that depend on Phoenix Children's for their child's care. 

The hospital and a major health insurer have been locked in a bitter contract dispute.

If a new contract isn't in place by June 1, PCH will be locked out of the United Healthcare network and 17,000 families won't be covered for care at the hospital.

On Thursday, PCH sent 12News a statement on the contract negotiations that was very critical of United Healthcare.

But late in the day Friday, after 12News had requested a statement from United Healthcare, the two sides issued a joint statement signaling they're going to work it out:

"UnitedHealthcare and Phoenix Children's are working hard to renew our relationship. We both remain fully committed to reaching an agreement that meets the needs of the families we mutually serve in Arizona."

That's a positive sign for the families at risk of losing coverage at PCH.

Families that have the United Healthcare Community Plan - the insurer's Medicaid offering - are not affected by the contract dispute. 

Kara Karlson says her 4-year-old daughter, Ava, suffers from a genetic disorder that is so rare there's no name for it.

For all four years of Ava's life, PCH doctors - 15 of them - have provided her care.

"My job as a mom is to provide her with the best care and the most resources so that she can be the best Ava that she can be - whatever that ends up looking like," Karlson said in an interview at her Mesa home. 

Karlson is a lawyer for the State of Arizona and a member of the Developmental Disability Advisory Council, a state board appointed by the governor to provide support and advice on issues affecting the developmental disability community.

"Ava's been through enough," Karlson said. "She knows her doctors. And they know us. We want to keep them."

United Healthcare and Phoenix Children's Hospital are both doing well financially. 

PCH is in the midst of a $400 million expansion across the Valley.

United's parent is the country's largest private health insurer, with $28 billion in profits last year.

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