UnitedHealthcare and Canopy Health introduce new health plan that delivers lower costs and a patient-focused experience

Over the past three years, an effort to make health care more affordable and easier to navigate for thousands of Bay Area residents has been the driving force of a collaboration between Canopy Health and UnitedHealthcare. Now that effort is expanding to serve more members, with the introduction of the California Doctors Plan.

Founded by UCSF, John Muir Health, Hill Physicians and Meritage Medical Network, Canopy Health is an integrated, high-performing accountable care network of providers and health systems in the Bay Area that are committed to delivering high-quality, affordable care. UnitedHealthcare currently serves 2.9 million members in California.

UnitedHealthcare forged a relationship with Canopy Health in 2018, designed to improve health outcomes and the health care experience for members in the Bay Area. The goal was to achieve a shared goal of creating an integrated, personalized and affordable health care experience for the patients and members we serve while lowering the total cost of care. 

“We’re proud to work with an exceptional network of alliance partner medical groups and hospitals that deliver top-quality care to our patients every day. Early on, we also saw an opportunity to bring even more value to the communities we serve by working with innovative health plans that share our vision of improved quality, more affordable health costs and a better member experience,” said Mike Robinson, CEO of Canopy Health. “We’re excited to be working with UnitedHealthcare, given that they’re a leader in developing competitive health plans that are not only appealing to consumers but that also meet the needs of employers.”

The first health plan offered in collaboration with Canopy Health hit the market in 2018. A defining feature of the UnitedHealthcare SignatureValue HMO plan is the flexibility members may have in accessing care from a variety of physicians and hospitals across the Canopy Health network in the Bay Area at a lower premium than a traditional HMO plan. The relationship with Canopy Health expanded earlier this year with the launch of the UnitedHealthcare Canopy Health Medicare Advantage plan.

The latest from the alliance is the California Doctors Plan, which offers those in the Bay Area access to quality, patient-focused health care, personalized customer support, the opportunity to save on premiums and the flexibility of accessing care from 20 participating medical centers and more than 5,000 physicians across nine Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and parts of Solano and Sonoma.

“We built the California Doctors Plan together with Canopy Health, and the plan is stronger as a result,” said Steve Cain, CEO of UnitedHealthcare in Northern California. “We knew that we wanted to create a plan that would help people save money and improve their health and well-being, but how we achieved those goals was the subject of much discussion. We took advantage of the opportunity to hear directly from care providers about how we as a health insurer could make the care experience better not only for our members but also for the physicians caring for our members. We poured everything we learned into this plan and are looking forward to seeing the results it delivers.” 

Now, more than ever, employers may be looking to manage costs while still providing their employees with quality health care coverage. Offering health plans like the California Doctors Plan that feature high-performing networks has become one of the most popular ways for employers to do so. With its lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs, the California Doctors Plan is designed for both employers and employees to save money.

The plan also offers personalized online tools that may help members better understand and manage their benefits, helping to streamline costs.

Both companies prioritized not only providing cost-savings for Bay Area employers and members but also offering a simplified and more personalized care experience. To achieve that kind of customer experience, a UnitedHealthcare dedicated service team was developed to provide personalized concierge support for California Doctors Plan members.

Located in Chico, the customer care advocates have access to relevant patient data from both the provider and the health plan, enabling them to handle all of the behind-the-scenes coordination on members’ behalf and to serve as their sole contact until their question is answered or the issue is resolved. This concierge support model better serves members’ needs by removing the hassles of being transferred or having to call back to confirm the status of an issue.

“We thought it was incredibly important to have a local customer service team dedicated to the unique needs of our population,” Steve said. “We wanted to make sure that every time a member calls us, they get a consistent experience and know that the advocate on the other end of the line is truly that: an advocate for their health who’s there not only to answer their questions but to truly be of service to them and to help ensure that they feel valued as a California Doctors Plan member.”

The design of the plan, as well as the resources available to members, also helps to create a more seamless experience. For example, members are required to select a primary care physician who acts as the “quarterback” of their care team, helping to coordinate their care and guide them throughout their health care journey. While the role of the primary care physician is critical, giving members choice and flexibility is also important, so the plan has no referral requirements, enabling members to see a specialist in the full Canopy Health network without first seeking a referral from their primary care doctor.

To make it easier for members to manage their health, they have access to UnitedHealthcare’s member website and a dedicated Canopy Health app where they can find information about their health plan, review details about the status of claims for their care, search for physicians and hospitals that participate in the network and participate in telehealth visits with Canopy Health physicians.

The California Doctors Plan is everything Mike and Steve imagined five years ago when they first initiated this collaboration between their companies. And its introduction is an important milestone in their ongoing efforts to achieve the goals of their partnership: improved health, lower costs and a simpler, more transparent and more patient-centric care experience for patients and members.

“Strong relationships between care providers and health insurers can lead to improvements in a health care system that can sometimes seem hard to navigate for patients,” Mike said. “We’re really pleased that more Bay Area residents will be introduced to the Canopy Health network through the California Doctors Plan, and we look forward to not only caring for these new patients but also to continuing to build our relationship with UnitedHealthcare in the years ahead.” 

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