UnitedHealth: High-quality care cuts cost by 14%

High-quality healthcare doesn't necessarily equate to more expensive care and can, in fact, cut overall costs by about 14 percent, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of privately insured patients from UnitedHealth Group.

The new report, which was published in the September issue of Health Affairs, evaluated the quality of care provided by almost 250,000 doctors treating commercially insured patients. It concluded that costs vary significantly--about 2.5 times for major medical procedures and about 15 times for common chronic conditions, reported MedCity News.

For example, treating a basic asthma episode varied in cost between $98 and $1,535, while costs for treating migraines was as wide-ranging as $94 to $2,006, Kaiser Health News reported. "We found essentially no correlation between average costs and the measured level of care quality across markets," the authors wrote.

"This research shows that for families across the nation, high-quality care can indeed be more affordable care," Simon Stevens, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, said Wednesday in a statement. "But these results underline the urgent need for effective new payment incentives, combined with appropriate support for dedicated care professionals, if the country is to capitalize on the scale of the improvement opportunity this research reveals."

The report recommended the industry improve the sophistication of quality measures, expand and share data to encourage more detailed performance analysis, and offer providers tools and other support beyond only new incentives.

To learn more:
- read the UnitedHealth statement and report
- see the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the MedCity News article