UnitedHealthcare launches new virtual primary care offering in 11 states

UnitedHealthcare is launching a new, virtual primary care option as part of an effort to expand access to local clinicians in its employer-sponsored plans.

Virtual primary care will be available to members in certain employer plans across 11 states, UnitedHealthcare said in an announcement. The insurer expects to expand the offering to additional states over the course of the year.

The goal, UnitedHealth said, is to make it easier for patients to establish and maintain an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider.

“The UnitedHealthcare Virtual Primary Care service and updated policy help expand the use of virtual care from delivering care to people who are sick, to now also focusing on preventing and detecting disease before it starts and, if needed, helping people more conveniently manage certain chronic conditions,” said Anne Docimo, M.D., chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare," in a statement.

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"As more people and care providers move to a digital-first mindset, UnitedHealthcare will continue to modernize our approach to health benefits and invest in new ways to use technology to help make it more convenient for our members to access primary care and other types of medical services," Docimo said.

Through the program, eligible members will be able to access a slew of primary care services with little or no cost sharing, UnitedHealthcare said. Available services include annual wellness visits, routine follow-ups and checkups for chronic conditions, lab tests and referrals to specialists.

For the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, cost sharing will be waived for all members seeking testing or treatment for the virus, including virtually, UnitedHealthcare said.

Recent survey data from UnitedHealthcare found a quarter of respondents would actually prefer a virtual relationship with their doctor compared to the more traditional in-person approach, the insurer said.

The new virtual primary care offering is available in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.