UnitedHealth to offer nearly $2B in accelerated payments, financial support to providers

UnitedHealth Group will offer close to $2 billion in financial support, including accelerated payments, to cash-strapped providers as they continue to battle COVID-19.

The insurer said Tuesday that it would accelerate claims payments to both medical and behavioral health care providers across its fully insured commercial, Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicaid plans.

It will also make $125 million in small business loans available to clinical operators that partner with OptumHealth.

“We are grateful to the health care providers and their teams who are on the front lines battling COVID-19,” said UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann in a statement. “The actions we are taking today will provide nearly $2 billion in accelerated payments and financial support so our care provider partners can focus on delivering needed care.”

RELATED: Docs push HHS to offer direct funding as finances slump due to COVID-19

Providers have been urging health plans to offer a more direct cash infusion as the pandemic continues but have largely been rebuffed. Some, such as Blue Shield of California, have heeded their request, but UnitedHealthcare could start a trend as the country's largest private payer.

In addition to the financial support, UnitedHealth is suspending prior authorization when members need to be transferred to another provider and in post-acute care.

It will also offer provisional credentialing to make it easier for out-of-network providers licensed as independent practitioners to join the insurer's network. UnitedHealth will also extend deadlines to file claims in MA, Medicaid and individual and group market plans.

“Many health systems are having to make very difficult decisions due to the cost of preparing and responding to COVID-19 plus the reduction or elimination of elective procedures, so steps like this will meaningfully mitigate the need to make some of these decisions," said Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare, in a statement.