UnitedHealthcare reports high satisfaction, improved outcomes in consumer-centric Surest plans

UnitedHealthcare's Surest, which axes deductibles and provides upfront pricing data to members, is the fastest growing product among its commercial plan lineup. And a new analysis offers a look as to why.

The insurance giant released Thursday an Impact Study examining some of the results Surest has seen to date and notes that members enrolled in these plans had 6% fewer emergency department visits and 13% fewer inpatient hospital admissions compared to those who were not enrolled in a Surest plan at the same employer.

In addition, members enrolled in Surest plans had a 20% increase in visits to a physician and a 9% jump in preventive physical exams compared to those in other commercial plans.

Surest members also paid 54% less out-of-pocket compared to members in traditional plans and saved an average of 11% per member per month. Savings were up to 15% for employers, according to the study.

Shawn Wagoner, senior vice president and chief revenue officer at Surest, told Fierce Healthcare the positive results highlight the fact that designing a plan with a consumer-centric mindset can pay off.

"If you give people a plan they can understand and feel comfortable using, coupled with information when they need it, they will make informed choices that benefit them, and then benefit their employer as well," he said. "Consumerism works—that's my big takeaway."

The study offers a look at utilization for certain preventive services. Surest members saw a 15% increase in preventive mammograms as well as a 34% increase in preventive colonoscopies, according to the report. 

People enrolled in Surest plans were also more likely to seek care in high-value settings, with a 6% higher rate of urgent care visits and a seven times increase in virtual visits.

Wagoner said providing clear cost information upfront to members encourages them to seek the services they need. For example, he said that a member was suffering from significant nerve pain following a dog bite but did not access treatment because they feared the costs would be high.

Switching to Surest and seeing that they could afford the care, they reached out for an appointment and began to receive treatment, he said.

"We can tell you exactly your options on where to go, and how much each of those individual options will cost you with certainty," Wagoner said.

Given the ease with which members can access the key information they need to make decisions about their care, patients report a better experience with Surest plans. Net Promoter Scores were notably higher than industry benchmarks, and most (9 in 10) members renew with Surest year over year.

UnitedHealth currently offers Surest to self-funded employers with 51 or more workers across the country. It's also available to fully insured employers with 51 or more employees in 32 states and territories, with plans to expand into six additional states for 2024.

One in 6 of UnitedHealthcare's national account customers have taken up Surest as an option, and it's offered by hundreds of employers representing 4.4 million workers, according to the company.

Wagoner said people tend to view Surest's approach as "too good to be true." However, the plans were designed as if an ordinary consumer sat down and decided to build the health insurance that they want, he said, which is why it works for customers.

"There is no catch," he said. "We've just designed something differently."