UnitedHealthcare launches behavioral health coaching program for commercial plans

UnitedHealthcare is rolling out a new virtual behavioral health coaching program backed by Optum.

The offering is available as of Jan. 1 for 5 million fully insured members, and self-insured employers can also purchase the program as an employer benefit. Through the program, adults with symptoms of mild depression, stress and anxiety can access support for their mental health needs through virtual modules as well as one-on-one video conferences, phone calls or messaging with coaches.

The new program is UnitedHealthcare's latest addition to its behavioral health service lineup, which also includes in-person and virtual visits, self-help tools and family support programs.

“UnitedHealthcare recognizes the intrinsic link between behavioral health and physical health, and is dedicated to integrating behavioral health into medical care,” said Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare. “With 1 in 5 Americans experiencing a mental illness within a given year, it’s important for us to offer a range of low acuity to high acuity support programs for those who may need it, with the goal of helping to address access and affordability challenges.”

Members who use virtual coaching can connect with a dedicated behavioral health coach for a 30-minute weekly audio or video call and can chat with their coach using in-app messaging between sessions.

The program lasts eight weeks, and each member will complete an assessment at the onset to identify their individual needs. Coaches use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to assist the patient in crafting an action plan that is personalized to them.

Members also have 24/7 access to valuable content and are able to use the program's resiliency tools even after the eight-week period. Coaches are backed by licensed mental health professionals and can make referrals if needed.

Behavioral health has been a key focus for employers coming out of the pandemic, which made mental health needs far worse. Virtual care tools and telehealth visits have emerged as key factors to stemming the rising tide of behavioral health conditions.