Payer Roundup—UnitedHealth announces Optum leadership changes; Premera to invest tax savings in state exchanges

Health insurance, pen and stethoscope
UnitedHealth announced a leadership shakeup at Optum, plus more health insurance headlines. (Getty/Minerva Studio)

UnitedHealth announces leadership changes at Optum 

UnitedHealth Group is transitioning Larry Renfro, the vice chair and CEO of its pharmacy benefit management arm Optum, to lead "enterprise growth efforts" at the recently expanded Optum Ventures. Former GlaxoSmithKline CEO and UnitedHealth board member Andrew Witty will take over as CEO of Optum, the company announced. (Announcement

Premera to invest tax savings in individual markets, community health 

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield will invest $250 million over the next five years to improve stability in the individual marketplaces in Washington and Alaska, increase access to healthcare in rural areas and support behavioral health programs in local communities. The investment is possible because of the recent tax overhaul, the insurer said. Premera notified regulators in both states that it would sell individual plans in 2019. (Announcement

Oliver Wyman: Funding CSRs, reinsurance could lower ACA premiums by at least 40% 

After analyzing the impact of proposed Affordable Care Act stabilization bills that would fund cost-sharing reduction payments and a reinsurance program, analysts with Oliver Wyman Health estimate the changes could reduce premiums by at least 40% and provide 3.2 million more people with insurance. The estimates account for the individual mandate repeal, but don't include the potential effects of expanding access to association or short-term health plans. (Analysis

Centene wants to invest in Iowa's Medicaid program 

Centene, one of the largest players in the Medicaid managed care sector, made a bid to help run Iowa's privatized Medicaid program. The $5 billion program covers a fifth of the state's residents. Trusted Health Plan, a smaller player in the insurance industry, also made a bid to run the program. (Des Moines Register

UnitedHealth rolls out new ER claims policy 

Beginning March 1, UnitedHealth initiated a policy to closely scrutinize emergency care claims, with a focus on complex level four and level five claims. The changes would likely lower hospitals' reimbursements, but may not force patients to pay, unlike a similar policy put in place by Anthem that led to widespread backlash from providers. (FierceHealthcare

Geisinger launches program to cover hip surgery costs for life

Geisinger Health System is partnering with Medacta International, a global orthopedic medical devices company, to cover the lifetime costs of hip surgeries for its health plan members. The two entities will share the cost of the procedure, the device and the hospitalization for patients treated at Geisinger's facilities. Geisinger is looking to expand the program in the future. (FierceHealthcare