"In the ongoing fight to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impact on doctors, patients and communities of Georgia, UnitedHealth Group has implemented an unprecedented response, built to expand coverage, care and payment," said Junior Harewood, Executive Director, UnitedHealthcare of Georgia.
UnitedHealth Group in the US comprises one of the largest group of doctors in the country, second in size only behind the VA. Approximately 1.2 million Georgians are covered by UnitedHealthcare.
"We want to be flexible and responsive in a positive way to both our members and our doctors," said Harewood.
UnitedHealth Group, through UnitedHealthcare and Optum, recently accelerated nearly $2 billion in payments, to help health systems address the short-term financial pressure caused by the COVID-19 emergency. Additionally, UnitedHealthcare has reduced some prior authorization requirements and is reimbursing all eligible in-network providers for patients who communicate with their doctors using telehealth technologies.
For members, UnitedHealthcare has waived member cost-sharing for all testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, which allows UnitedHealthcare members to seek the treatment they need without fear of looming medical bills. UnitedHealthcare also expanded access to telehealth services, improved prescription drug coverage and eased early prescription refill restrictions, suspended some prior authorizations through May, and developed essential triage tools, including a symptom checker.
Additionally, UnitedHealth Group is providing more than $1.5 billion in initial assistance, including customer premium credit, to directly support people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Credits ranging from 5% to 20% - depending upon the specific plan – will be applied to premium billings received in June for UnitedHealthcare commercial fully insured individual and employer customers. For those served by UnitedHealthcare under Medicare Advantage plans, all specialist and primary physician cost sharing will be waived at least through the end of September. And, for those served by UnitedHealthcare and AARP with Medicare Supplement policies, both new and renewal premium pricing will benefit.
In support of best testing practices, UnitedHealth Group developed and tested a new FDA-approved, self-administered COVID-19 swab protocol. Widespread adoption of this less-invasive test may reduce exposure for health care workers and improve overall testing efficiency across the country.
UnitedHealthcare has taken steps to expand coverage for the recently unemployed, and those returning to work after furlough. For employers agreeing to pay premiums, UnitedHealthcare will continue to cover furloughed employees or those with reduced hours due to COVID-19 and will waive any rehire waiting periods for rehired employees terminated during this time.
In support of communities nationwide, UnitedHealth Group has provided more than $80 million to those most directly impacted by the public health emergency, including health care workers, seniors and people experiencing food insecurity or homelessness. UnitedHealth Group also will continue to match employee donations dollar for dollar to support COVID-19 response efforts.
Locally, UnitedHealth care is working with community-based organizations to distribute hundreds of boxed lunches and thousands of hand sanitizer units to community members in need. The insurer has delivered dozens of boxes of reusable, washable masks to both the Georgia Food Banks Association and the Area Agencies on Aging, who, in turn, distribute masks to the most vulnerable and needy individuals during meal delivery.
"We understand our Georgia communities, and the members, doctors, employers and frontline workers of the state need our support now more than ever. As the impact of COVID-19 reaches far and wide, it's imperative for so many that UnitedHealthcare responds with collaboration, purpose and resolve," said Harewood, "As evidenced by the unprecedented response from UnitedHealth Group, UnitedHealthcare and Optum, we are here in this uncertain time, in full support of the 1.2 million Georgians who count on us."