UnitedHealthcare launches bundled payments for maternity care 

New mother
UnitedHealthcare is offering bundled payments for maternity care. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

UnitedHealthcare has launched a new bundled payment program for maternity care and expects to roll it out to as many as 20 provider groups by the end of this year. 

New Jersey-based Lifeline Medical Associates and Texas-based Privia Medical Group-Gulf Coast are the first providers to jump into the program, UnitedHealthcare announced Thursday. Under the model, participating physician groups will be paid a lump sum for prenatal, delivery and postpartum care. 

Paying for maternity care in a bundle incentivizes better care coordination, which leads to better outcomes for expectant mothers, the insurer said in the announcement.  

The bundled payment model builds on UnitedHealthcare’s existing maternity program, which includes an app that allows patients to connect with a nurse around-the-clock and access a variety of resources and information on the go. 

“These resources can help improve access to quality, coordinated care, offering important support to women and families before, during and after delivery,” Janice Huckaby, M.D., senior vice president and regional chief medical officer at UHC and head of its women’s health initiatives. 

RELATED: Why providers shouldn’t overlook bundled payments for sepsis care 

UHC’s existing maternity programs have reduced unnecessary Cesarean sections, neonatal intensive care unit length of stay and pre-delivery admissions, the insurer said.  

Its C-section rate for low-risk pregnancy among its employer plan members was 18% in 2018, below the 23.9% target set by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The new bundles were designed in collaboration with the U.S. Women’s Health Alliance. Jack Feltz, M.D., president of the alliance, called the program “transformative” for maternity care. 

Humana also launched bundles for maternity care last year. Experts including the Health Care Transformation Task Force have identified maternity care as a crucial target for these payment models, and it’s an area that many private payers are quite interested in

These insurers are looking at ways to improve care for pregnant women as rising maternal mortality rates in the U.S. raise concern. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the mortality rate increased to 14 deaths per 100,000 births in 2014 from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 births in 1999.