A recent New York Times editorial — “How Health Insurers Can Be Heroes. Really.” — makes the case that health insurers have an opportunity to distinguish themselves during the COVID-19 crisis.
We’re not sure if companies can be heroes, but we know people can.
People like Dr. Paul Banick, a UnitedHealthcare clinician from Tennessee, who is volunteering in New York’s Bellevue Hospital, treating the most challenged COVID patients. Or Dr. Jeffrey Brenner in UnitedHealthcare’s Medicaid business, who is leading New Jersey’s field-based hospital system during COVID-19. People, not companies, are the real heroes and we are grateful for their service.
We do, however, completely agree with the editorial authors’ suggestion that insurers play a vital role in helping our country combat and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just last week, UnitedHealth Group announced we would be providing $1.5 billion in financial support to our customers. This support will come in different forms including premium credits for commercial fully insured customers, waiving copays for Medicare Advantage members, premium stability for Medicare Supplement members, and expanding access to covered services for Medicaid members. These actions will help offset historic levels of deferred care and provide much needed financial relief. We also provided financial assistance to programs working directly with the homeless and those facing food insecurity.
This swift financial relief builds on the early steps we took to waive all cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment. We also waived cost-sharing for all telehealth visits with in-network physicians, making it easier and safer for people to get the care they need. By waiving these costs, we have helped people save millions in health care costs while ensuring access to the care they need with physicians they trust.
Supporting health care providers has also been a top priority as they battle COVID-19 on the front lines and wrestle with the financial impact on their medical practices. In early April, we announced accelerated payments of nearly $2 billion to care providers to help address financial challenges brought on by the pandemic. We also support the authors’ idea of aligning insurers’ incentives with providers by using a capitated rate per person vs. fee-for-service billing. This payment model is a win-win-win for patients, providers and payers because it generates better outcomes at lower costs.
We recognize the significant challenges facing care providers. Across UnitedHealth Group, we have nearly 100,000 clinicians who are on the front lines working every day to provide essential care. To support our clinicians and communities, we announced an initial $75 million commitment to help fight COVID-19 in heavily impacted populations, ensuring the safety of health care workers, supporting our highest risk members and patients, and providing much needed assistance to the hardest-hit communities.
This work is critical to the recovery of our country. And it doesn’t stop with COVID-19, it’s what we do every day. We help people: get the care they need, move from hospital to home, understand benefits, get medications, find transportation and housing, address hunger, combat loneliness and depression, get baby checkups, support special needs children, stay well and live their fullest lives.
We moved past simply being an insurance company well over a decade ago. We are privileged to help people live healthier lives, and to help make the health system work better for everyone.