U.S. health insurance giant UnitedHealth (UNH) - Get Report on Thursday confirmed plans to provide some $1.5 billion of discounts and other assistance to help its members with healthcare costs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting next month, the insurance giant will offer the financial assistance to its customers, which will include credits toward premiums of between 5% and 20% to both employers and workers enrolled in its plans, and suspension of out-of-pocket charges for some doctor visits.
Larger amounts will be provided to areas harder-hit by the pandemic. A small portion of the payments represents an advance against rebates that will likely be required under the Affordable Care Act, the company said.
The move comes as more Americans face the prospect not only of being out of a job but also of not having employer-assisted healthcare benefits amid one of the biggest health crises in generations. Employers, too, are struggling to pay the costs of healthcare coverage for their employees.
UnitedHealth also said it will waive cost-sharing, such as copayments, for specialist and primary care doctor visits by people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans through at least the end of September.
UnitedHealth also said it would provide “premium price stability and support” in its Medicare supplement policies, and make some moves targeted to the Medicaid population, including expanding programs that provide food and baby formula.
Analysts expect insurers to post significant savings in the second quarter due to what is expected to be a sharp drop-off in claims for healthcare services, as hospitals have canceled most elective procedures and consumers have steered clear of emergency rooms and doctors’ offices.
Shares of UnitedHealth ended the day Wednesday up 1.46% at $288.77.