UnitedHealth expanding bundles after positive results

After reporting nearly $18 million in savings for the employers current participating in its bundled payment programs for spinal surgeries and joint replacements, UnitedHealth Group announced it will expand the program to nine additional markets.

While UnitedHealth didn’t disclose the total costs per procedure, it reported $18,000 was saved per procedure for the more than 115 employers in the program. Employees saved more than $3,000 in out-of-pocket costs per procedure for going to a participating facility, driven by the allure of incentives like additional vacation days and cash.

“This program is one example of the ways we are reshaping how health care is delivered, helping enhance care coordination, improve outcomes and deliver greater value,” Sam Ho, MD, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare, said in a statement. “The initial results and nationwide expansion demonstrate the value of this program to health care providers, employers and their employees, helping to improve health outcomes and make care more affordable for more people.”

The bundles started with 28 markets in 2016 and will expand to 37 after demonstrating savings as well as improved outcomes. According to UnitedHealth, the spine and joint bundles reduced hospital readmissions by 22 percent and complications by 17 percent for knee and hip replacement patients. For spinal patients, readmissions dropped by 10 percent and there were 3.4 percent fewer complications compared to non-participating facilities.  

UnitedHealth had previously announced its intentions to expand its work on Medicare bundles, including the new Bundled Payments for Care Improvements Advanced model. Commercial insurance has been slower to adopt bundles, as payers waited to see Medicare’s results before jumping in themselves.