In 2020, United Healthcare surveyed about 2 million of its members for health-related social needs. What they found was that more than one in three of its members reported an unmet social need such as access to education, food or transportation. These unmet social needs are associated with a higher degree of utilization and healthcare costs, said Lisa Barrett, national vice president of Member Navigation Solutions for United Healthcare.
“Studies show that people who have food insecurities or don’t have access to transportation are more than two and a half times as likely to report multiple emergency department visits than those who do have access to those things. And they’re more than twice as likely to experience a hospital inpatient stay. These unmet social needs put an extra burden on the healthcare system.”
Barrett shared with Legionnaires attending the 102nd National Convention in Phoenix Sept. 1 that United Healthcare’s goal is to address social determinants of health and health system transformation “to help people live healthier lives. Every one of you who served had a mission … our mission at United Healthcare is to help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone. Those are two very lofty goals, and we strive to achieve those every day and every interaction we have with those whom we’re privileged to serve.”
Barrett shared ways United Healthcare has addressed social determinants of health needs.
- Invested over $500 million in affordable housing units across the country.
- Donated $12.3 million through its Empowering Health Grants to community-based organizations, including veteran organizations, across 21 states to help ease the burden and aide in the recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Donated $1.5 million to Feeding America; invested $1 million into Meals on Wheels America “to support the local programs that address the immediate needs, and the ongoing needs, of our vulnerable senior population.”
Barrett answered why these efforts by United Healthcare, an ally of The American Legion, matter to American Legion members. “Because veteran status is an important social determinant of health. It’s a part of who you are. It might impact the kind of healthcare that you need to consume or where you may receive that care. Knowing that a person served helps us at United Healthcare to better serve the veteran.
“At United Healthcare we are linking United Healthcare veterans with 8,000 or more veteran specific programs and an additional 1,800 veteran spouse programs that provide assistance to those who have these social determinant barriers to health. We’ve seen great progress with linking veteran to resources to help them live healthier lives.”
With its health system transformation goal, United Healthcare’s “vision is to deliver the most affordable coverage, the simplest experience, and the highest quality supported care,” Barrett said. To deliver on that promise, Barrett said United Healthcare is attempting to take cost out of the system by focusing on new consumer center product design which make access to care more affordable; and they have supported clinical programs that keep members healthy and reduce the need for costly treatments and hospitalizations. “We want to guide our members to the best site of service because that’s going to help reduce our cost and improve the quality of the care that you receive.”
For a simpler experience, they are focused on meeting each person’s needs on their terms by bringing care to the member through easier access telehealth options and home health services, and digital access to therapies for both physical and behavioral health. And United Healthcare is meeting quality care by “expanding our relationships with providers that reward for value, broadening our view of health care, and investing in these areas like affordable housing and food security.”
As a part of its alliance, Barrett said that “United Healthcare and The American Legion are working together on our common mission to provide holistic care to veterans. I believe our corporate alliance will strengthen us in addressing all the veteran’s health and transforming the health system for veterans. When veterans are properly supported it’s a testament to their value and an acknowledgement of the commitment to the service to their country.
“Increasing and simplifying access to care and essential support services may help these servicemen and women, no mater how they served, achieving lasting wellness and that is really the end game – lasting wellness.”