- UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann told investors this week that he expects 150 million U.S. consumers to be in value-based coordinated care programs by 2025, media reported. That’s a lofty prediction, nearly half the U.S. population. For its part, the payer currently has 15 million, or nearly half, its members receiving care from physicians in value-based contracts.
- Wichmann also told the crowd at the Bernstein Research’s Annual Strategic Decisions Conference that the payer is focused on using its care delivery arm OptumCare to push patients who don’t need emergency care away from the ER and toward a more appropriate setting.
- He said he supports plans to achieve universal healthcare coverage, but stopped short of endorsing a government-run single payer system, according to news reports.
Wichmann said UnitedHealth has already reduced hospitalizations by 17% through value-base care programs, and cut costs by as much as 8%.
More hospitals and physician groups are transitioning to value-based care as research continues to show the models can improve outcomes while reducing overall cost of care. Some of that research has been done by the insurer itself.
Currently, about $64 billion of UnitedHealth's annual payments to providers are tied to value-based care. The company had previously said it expects that figure to reach $75 billion by the end of 2020.
It’s no surprise the company is looking to further use its Optum arm, which has been ahead of the curve in vertical integration for years. Just in 2017, Optum announced plans to acquire an ambulatory surgery center, Advisory Board Company’s healthcare business and DaVita Medical Group.
Optum was key to the firm’s rosy financial report for the first quarter of this year. The payer reported year-over-year revenue growth of 13.3% and said membership was up as well.
Payers across the country are looking to cut costs by pushing patients toward more low-acuity healthcare settings with lower overhead. Unnecessary ER visits have been a major target, although providers and patients have pushed back on strict policies. Anthem recently rolled back its initiative to reject ER claims it determined were not from true medical emergencies.