A UnitedHealth Group Inc. storefront in Queens. (Photo: Michael Nagle/BB) A UnitedHealth Group Inc. storefront in Queens. (Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Executives from UnitedHealth Group Inc. started the second-quarter earnings release season Thursday by talking a lot more about efforts to manage health care than about the business of insurance.

Dirk McMahon, the new chief executive officer of the company’s UnitedHealthcare health insurance unit, said his focus will be on cutting costs and improving patients’ experience.

“Cost impacts member health when it’s a barrier to getting care, and we need to address that even better for people,” McMahon said, during a conference call UnitedHealth to go over its latest earnings with securities analysts.

(Related: We’re the Ones Actually Improving Health Care: UnitedHealth)

McMahon also talked about efforts to provide health care system navigation services, to help patients get health care services and use their health insurance benefits.

The company is working to provide more digital and human navigators for consumers, McMahon said.

The company said it now has about 1,000 navigators in place at its Navigate4Me unit.

The company has been offering the program to enrollees in plans aimed at people over 65 who have complex conditions.

The program “provides them with a single point of contact for concierge services, and a dedicated team of experts, supported by a proprietary technology platform with integrated data,” McMahon said.

The program appears to have reduced affected patients’ use of emergency room services by 9%, and it has reduced the patients’ hospitalization rate by 14%, McMahon said.

In 2020, UnitedHealth will expand the care coordination effort. It will provide all plan enrollees who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid with a personal care coordinator, to help with tasks such as scheduling appointments and filling prescriptions, McMahon said.

McMahon said another new program, a preferred testing lab program, is helping patients save money and order more lab tests through electronic systems.

Those changes and similar types of changes could cut medical spending by UnitedHealthcare plan enrollees by about $20 billion per year, McMahon said.

Performance

UnitedHealth is reporting $3.4 billion in net income for the second quarter on $61 billion in revenue, up from $2.9 billion in net income on $56 billion in revenue for the second quarter of 2018.

The UnitedHealthcare unit is reporting $2.6 billion in operating earnings for the latest quarter on $49 billion in revenue, up from $2.4 billion in operating earnings on $46 billion in revenue for the year-earlier quarter.

The company ended the quarter providing or administering health care coverage for 50 million people, up 1.4% from the year-earlier total.

Here’s what happened to the number of people covered by certain types of coverage:

  • Fully insured commercial health insurance: 8.3 million (-0.7%)
  • Self-insured employer health plans that UnitedHealthcare administers: 19 million (+3.7%)
  • Fully insured and self-insured commercial plans: 27 million (+2.2%))
  • Medicare Advantage: 5.2 million (8+.4%)
  • Medicare supplement: 4.5 million (-0.2%)
  • Medicaid: 6.4 million (-5.2%)
  • International: 6.1 million (+0.8%)

Resources

Information about UnitedHealth’s latest earnings is available here.

— Read UnitedHealth and AMA Propose Diagnosis Code for ‘Unable to Pay for Prescriptions’on ThinkAdvisor.

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