Monday, August 26, 2013

Online payment makes medical bills a little easier to manage

People like to pay online – it’s fast, it’s easy, and you can easily keep track of when each bill came in and when it was paid.

In fact, 64% of consumer bill payments were completed online in 2012, up from 49 percent in 2008, according to financial industry research and consulting firm Alte Group.

And now UnitedHealthcare members can add their medical bills to the list of bills they can easily manage online.

UnitedHealthcare’s new online bill payment service, known as myClaims Manager, is a secure way for patients to easily manage and pay their health care bills electronically.  People can pay by entering their credit card, debit card, health savings account or bank account information, making the bill paying process significantly more convenient.

In fact, UnitedHealthcare is the first national insurance carrier to offer online bill payment capabilities that are fully integrated with their online claim information.  Since a recent report from SK&A Information Services reports that one third of physician practices don’t accept credit cards, online bill payment through an insurer gives people more options of how to pay.

Designed in collaboration with InstaMed, the leading health care payments network company, the online system is available to UnitedHealthcare employers of all sizes and their employees and families.  Furthermore, our entire network of health providers are eligible to sign up to receive online payments, which helps doctors get paid faster.

Of course, people can always pay the traditional way.  But giving people the option to pay online is one way that we can make the health care payments system faster, more convenient, and easier to manage.

For a look at this latest innovation that adds convenience and simplicity to your life go to

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Diverse Scholars program is changing the demographis of health care workforce

According to the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of multicultural health professionals is disproportionately low when compared to the overall population. For example, while about 15 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic/Latino, only 5 percent of physicians and 4 percent of registered nurses are Hispanic/Latino. About 12 percent of the population is African American, yet only 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of registered nurses are African American.

Given the changing demographics in the United States and the volumes of people entering the health care system because of the Affordable Care Act, there is a great need to foster a more diverse health care workforce. 

To help meet this need, United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative awarded $1.2 million in scholarships in the 2012-2013 school year to 200 students from diverse backgrounds.  As a local UnitedHealthcare executive in New Jersey, I’m proud to recognize a student from New Jersey who is represented in this elite group of scholars. 
Quidest Sheriff, a Blackwood, New Jersey resident and a fourth-year osteopathic medical student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine was awarded a scholarship to pursue a career in health care. Quidest holds a bachelor of science in biological sciences and developmental psychology from Rutgers University (Go RU!!) and hopes to open her own clinic, specializing in international medicine and women’s health.  Sheriff is founder of the nonprofit organization Orthodox GEMS (St. Gabriel’s Mentoring, Empowering and Solidarity) which empowers young women in the professional, educational, spiritual and social realms.

In addition to receiving a financial award, Quidest attended the fifth annual Diverse Scholars Forum, which brought more than 60 scholarship recipients to Washington, D.C., July 24-26 to celebrate the scholars and inspire them to work toward strengthening the nation’s health care system. This year’s event gave Quidest, and other future health care professionals, the opportunity to meet and interact with members of Congress and leaders from a variety of health care fields.

Research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that when patients are treated by health professionals who share their language, culture and ethnicity, they are more likely to accept and adopt the medical treatment they receive. UnitedHealthcare hopes that its efforts to increase the diversity of health care providers will reduce the shortage of medical professionals in underserved areas, reduce inequities in academic medicine and address variables – such as language barriers – that make it difficult for patients to navigate the health care system.  Something I think we all hope for.

Congratulations, Quidest!

United Health Foundation's diverse scholar recipients networking
at the Diverse Scholars Forum held in Washington, DC. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Camden Coalition: a good model for coordinated, quality care

When patients are shuffled around between different doctors, specialists, hospitals, emergency rooms and clinics, picking up prescriptions along the way, it should be no surprise that patients’ overall health often declines.  Nor should it be a surprise that in this model of care, costs rise quickly.

One solution is to give patients a care coordinator to talk to patients about their health concerns and help them manage their care.  The coordinator can help them find the best doctors, ensure their health records are complete, manage their medications, schedule tests and appointments, and even help them find transportation when necessary.

It sounds expensive, but in fact, care coordinators have the potential to significantly reduce health care costs.  As health insurers and providers team up to launch accountable care organizations across the country, care coordinators are a key element in our plan to improve the quality of patient care and outcomes and reduce costs.

Recently, UnitedHealthcare partnered with the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers to bring face-to-face care coordination to Medicaid recipients who required health care services far more frequently than the average patient.  Each patient in the program had a health care coordinator that would meet with them to discuss their conditions, schedule follow-up appointments with primary care physicians and specialists, and make sure the patients got to their appointments.

The results were significant.  Patients saw their primary care physicians more often, and had less visits to expensive specialists.  They had fewer prescriptions, and fewer high-cost hospitalizations.

Face-to-face care coordination combined with accountable care contracts, as I discussed in my blog last week, are key aspects of UnitedHealthcare’s accountable care plan based on the foundation we have built over the last 30 years.  For more information on the Camden Coalition and how we are working with providers to provide higher quality, lower cost care to New Jersey residents, see NJ Spotlight’s recent article on our coordinated care approach.