The UnitedHealth Group’s More than $2B Fight to Keep Georgia Thriving Amidst Reopening

Junior Harewood

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

As communities around Georgia continue to reopen in limited fashion, the fight for community health continues behind the scenes at one of the state’s largest healthcare providers. For UnitedHealth Group, mitigating the coronavirus’ impact on Georgia doctors, patients and communities has meant the rapid and ongoing implementation of unprecedented medical disaster response.

In collaboration with Microsoft, UnitedHealth Group launched its ProtectWell™ protocol and app, to support return to workplace planning and symptom screening for employers. ProtectWell™ gives employers tools to screen employees for daily work. The app is offered free of charge to U.S. employers. 

UnitedHealth Group developed and tested a new FDA approved self-administered COVID-19 swab protocol that has led to meaningfully improved testing efficiency, safety and protection of health care workers, and reduced consumption of personal protection equipment. We also led a study resulting in FDA approval for the use of alternative swab materials and commonly available saline for COVID-19 testing, providing more options for sample collection.

For doctors and health systems around the country, UnitedHealth Group accelerated $2 billion in payments, to ensure that health providers on the front lines are better able to address short-term financial needs. UnitedHealth Group also has reduced certain prior authorization requirements and taken steps to ensure that in-network providers who communicate with patients via telehealth are fully reimbursed for the service. Additionally, UnitedHealth Group quickly shifted more than 14,000 OptumCare physicians to telehealth visits that would otherwise be canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. These visits are essential to ensure chronically ill patients remain well cared for.

UnitedHealth Group also is making care easier for members to obtain, by waiving member cost sharing entirely for testing and treatment of COVID-19. In further efforts to expand access to care in uncertain times, UnitedHealth Group has also built a suite of triage tools and symptom checkers, available online, expanded member access to telehealth services and improved its prescription drug processes. 

The insurer now offers special COVID-19 enrollment opportunities for employers who previously declined to enroll in coverage. And, UnitedHealth Group allowed grace periods on premium payments while continuing to pay claims. For the recently unemployed and for those returning to work after furlough, UnitedHealth Group continued to provide coverage where applicable, and waived re-hire waiting periods as necessary.

And in local communities around the country, UnitedHealth Group remains steadfast in commitment to the distribution of food, funds and PPE. With more than $100 million already distributed to the communities most directly impacted by the coronavirus, UnitedHealth has lent its support to health care workers in need, hot spot relief, vulnerable seniors, the homeless and those with food insecurity.

Dollar-for-dollar, UnitedHealth is matching the coronavirus relief donations of its employees nationwide. 

Additionally, UnitedHealthcare is awarding $12.3 million in grants to community-based organizations across 21 states as part of the Empowering Health commitment, including $1 million in grants to six organizations in Georgia, including Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta Regional Commission, Open Hand Atlanta, Wellspring Living, Prevent Blindness Georgia and Families First. Locally, UnitedHealthcare also is distributing boxed lunches, hand sanitizer, washable masks and funds to partners like Georgia Food Banks Association and the Area Agencies on Aging.

While communities around the state roll out pilot programs in eased restrictions, UnitedHealth Group continues its work to ensure that those affected by the pandemic have access to care, and that communities are prepared to thrive as they reopen.