By Making More Telehealth Free, UnitedHealth Hopes to Curb Unneeded ER Visits

  • Jun 30, 2023

    UnitedHealthcare will remove out-of-pocket costs and deductibles for remote urgent-care visits, effectively making them free for 5 million members in fully insured employer plans. 

    The goal is to remove financial barriers that prevent members from getting necessary acute care while deterring them from costlier settings like the emergency room, Donna O’Shea, M.D., chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare, tells AIS Health, a division of MMIT.  

    UnitedHealthcare’s effort to steer patients away from the ER is not new — but its $0 copay telehealth visits  represent more of a consumer-friendly strategy than it has previously employed. In 2021, the insurer walked back a proposed policy that generated considerable outrage: It would have led to denials of some ER claims that were deemed non-emergencies after the fact.  

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  • Leslie Small

    Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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