BAYONNE, N.J. — For five years, Rasha Salama has taken her two children to Dr. Inas Wassef, a pediatrician a few blocks from her home in this blue-collar town across the bay from New York City.

Salama likes the doctor because Wassef speaks her native language — Arabic — and has office hours at convenient times for children.

“She knows my kids, answers the phone, is open on Saturdays and is everything for me,” she said.

But UnitedHealthcare is dropping Wassef — and hundreds of other doctors in its central and northern New Jersey Medicaid physician network. The move is forcing thousands of low-income patients such as Salama to forsake longtime physicians.

Across the nation, business and contractual disputes are separating patients from longtime

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