- Diversified health behemoth UnitedHealth Group will roll out a virtual-first primary care product by the end of the year that combines its Optum physician network with payer arm UnitedHealthcare's network offerings, Chief Operating Officer Dirk McMahon said at the annual HLTH conference Monday.
- Management has teased the new product, called NavigateNow, on multiple calls with investors as capitalizing on trends toward home-based care and telemedicine observed in UnitedHealth's members and the market as a whole.
- NavigateNow will be initially available to select employers in nine markets, but Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth's goal is to expand to at least 25 markets by the end of 2022, along with making it available to employers with self-funded plans.
One of UnitedHealth's key strategic priorities is co-developing products between Optum and UnitedHealthcare, an initiative that's now bearing fruit with the launch of NavigateNow.
The virtual primary care offering is quarterbacked by an Optum care team for primary, urgent and behavioral health services, with UnitedHealthcare's physician network as a backup for any in-person needs. The integrated care model is meant to identify health issues earlier to steer patients to the best site of care, preventing more serious diseases down the line.
Members enrolled in the plan will have a $0 co-pay, along with access to a wearable device for a wellbeing program that offers financial perks for meeting daily health targets. Patients can earn more than $1,000 a year to meet walking, cycling or strength training goals, among others.
Insurers have been interested in yoking fitness and nutrition data to rewards in a bid to get patients more involved in their day-to-day healthcare. UnitedHealth has offered a mobile wellness platform called Rally since 2014 that also seeks to reward members for healthier lifestyle choices, while Aetna in 2019 rolled out an app for the Apple Watch allowing users to set health and activity goals while earning gift card rewards for reaching them.
On UnitedHealth's second quarter earnings call in July, McMahon noted the company was hoping the virtual-first offering would help its commercial business, which for many private payers flagged last year during COVID-19.
But the health company's growing focus on eking out profit in the overlap between Optum and UnitedHealthcare has raised concerns among regulators and antitrust hawks. Currently, the Department of Justice is investigating UnitedHealth's acquisition of data analytics Change Healthcare after hospitals raised concerns the buy could hurt competition for health IT and revenue cycle management services, while giving UnitedHealthcare an unfair edge in contract negotiations with providers.
Despite the review, McMahon said in October the company expects the $13 billion buy to close in the first part of 2022.
NavigateNow is the latest of several UnitedHealthcare virtual care offerings supported by Optum's new virtual care platform, and other national telehealth providers. However, it's the payer's first virtual-first primary care plan, an area that's seen growing traction amongst companies looking to pare down costs while improving access.
NavigateNow is being offered to employers in Pittsburgh; Minneapolis; Indianapolis; Dallas; Houston; Little Rock, Arkansas; Fort Meyers, Florida; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Richmond, Virginia.