The Pulse from UnitedHealthcare: West region CEO talks cost management

Dave Milich shares how UnitedHealthcare is helping employers in the West region manage their costs.

Authored by Dave Milich, West Region CEO for UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual

In the West region, where I have the privilege of serving, our customers are continually asking us for health care options that are more affordable but still provide quality benefits to their workforces.

Across the western half of the U.S., health care costs are climbing, just like they are around the country. In some states, costs are rising at even sharper rates. For instance, Wyoming, California, Colorado and South Dakota are states with particularly high rates.

That’s why we are always talking to our clients about how critical it is to take a strategic approach to cost management. At UnitedHealthcare, that means offering an array of health plans and network designs that meet employer and employee needs, looking at all the components that may affect cost and enabling more informed health care decisions.

Understanding which cost management strategies are making a difference in the West region

Leveraging an array of health plans and network designs

Different networks and health plans can be a game changer when it comes to reducing health care costs.

Our customers typically want a broad network that can meet the varying needs of their employees and their families, but we know that all providers and sites of care aren’t created equal. Providers, for instance, that offer quality care at lower costs may see a favorable difference in their bottom line.

Examples that are gaining traction include:

  • Doctors Plan in Colorado, Arizona and Washington
  • UnitedHealthcare Charter® in markets like Illinois and Texas
  • NexusACO®, which is now available across the West region

In Texas, the state in which I reside, we’ve leveraged UnitedHealthcare Level Funded plans very effectively to help small employers save money on the benefit programs they’ve offered. This type of plan design has enabled some employers who have previously never offered benefits before to begin offering them because of the potential surplus refund and fixed costs that UnitedHealthcare Level Funded plans offer.

Our markets are also finding success with the Surest® health plan from UnitedHealthcare, which is characterized by upfront pricing and the ability to check costs and compare options before booking an appointment, which empowers employees to make more cost-effective decisions.

Looking at all of the components that affect cost

At UnitedHealthcare, we take a very hard look at all of the factors that influence cost, which includes unit cost and utilization. As a result, employers may see savings from some of the programs we offer, such as:

  • Site of care redirection
  • Payment integrity
  • Bed-day management

UnitedHealthcare has always been focused on the intersection of cost and quality. Data is a key factor in our ability to help stay ahead of the competition. We aggregate and analyze data, but we also turn that data into useful information that allows us and our customers to make informed decisions about the costs that may be impacting their plans.

We also know that proof is greater than promises, and that’s why we’re proud to have been found to reduce the total cost of care better than others by around 10%.1

Empowering more informed health decisions

Getting employees engaged in their own health can also help move costs in the right direction over the long term. That looks like giving them access to price comparison tools on® and the UnitedHealthcare® app, which allow them to make more informed decisions around costs.

Sometimes the best care choice still isn’t clear, and that’s where our Advocacy programs come in. Our advocates help employees navigate the health system when they have questions related to benefits, claims and coverage information and more.

We also hear from our employers that pharmacy care is complicated and expensive, and that’s why we’ve worked to make certain life-saving medications, such as insulin and albuterol, free for employees in eligible plans through our Vital Medication Program. We want them to have access to the prescriptions they need to stay well.

While health care costs continue to rise across the U.S., these are the strategies that I’m seeing that are helping make a difference across the West region and beyond, and I’m grateful to see that they’re meeting the needs of those we serve while also enabling more affordable care.

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