AUSTELL, Ga. — UnitedHealthcare is betting $65 million that it can profit by making primary care more attractive.With little fanfare, the nation’s largest health insurer launched an independent subsidiary in January that offers unlimited free doctor visits and 24/7 access by phone. Every member gets a personal health coach to nudge them toward their goals, such as losing weight or exercising more. Mental health counseling also is provided, as are yoga, cooking, and acupuncture classes. Services are delivered in stylish clinics with hardwood floors and faux fireplaces in their lobbies. Harken Health is available only in Chicago and Atlanta, where it covers 35,000 members who signed up this winter on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. UnitedHealth still sells traditional plans in those cities, too.
This individual and small group health plan offering appears primarily aimed at boosting health literacy and appreciation for healthy lifestyles among those new to health insurance following the expansion of coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Since this cohort can be frequent users of care and who because they lack pre-existing provider relationships tend to rack up costly emergency room visits for non-emergent care, Harken Health aims to reach them — and reduce ER visits — by offering unlimited primary care visits without out of pocket costs.
An apparent goal here is that by improving health literacy of its members and instilling in them an appreciation for maintaining healthy lifestyles — key health determinants — Harken Health will build a long term relationship that will pay future dividends in avoided high cost care. It’s redefining the health maintenance organization for the Obamacare era.
Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email