Insurance paperwork for medical procedures will soon be reduced as the nation’s largest health insurer announces a change to its authorization process.
- On Wednesday, UnitedHealth Group announced that it would change its authorization process to reduce the paperwork involved for approval, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- It will also reduce the number of devices and services requiring insurance company authorization.
- Beginning next year, the company will also implement further changes–such as reducing requirements for “gold-card” doctors and hospitals—to speed up the insurance process.
- “We’re not deaf to the complaints out there,” UnitedHealthcare chief growth officer Philip Kaufman said. “We’ve taken a hard look at ourselves and this process.”
- Some of the insurer’s promised changes may take time to enact, but the changes should result in a less stressful insurance process.
Why it’s news
The dozens of steps necessary to receive authorization for healthcare have caused so much frustration in recent years that lawmakers have started to pressure insurers to change their practices. UnitedHealth Group’s decision to make the process less difficult for its customers is a sign that these requests are beginning to make a change.
Other insurers have made changes in recent years. Cigna Group said in 2020 that it would reduce prior authorization requirements. CVS Health recently said it is working on automation to make the prior authorization process more manageable, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Prior authorization is a long-standing practice in health insurance. Essentially, for significant procedures, insurance companies ask that doctors verify that the service is necessary for the patient’s health. While this is intended to ensure companies are not paying unnecessary expenses, the result is extra strain on already busy doctors and patient care delays.
Hospitals often employ staff dedicated to filling out the paperwork for prior authorization of procedures. This means patients have to wait around two to four additional weeks for treatment, and the hospital has to pay dozens of extra staff members, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Some patients have also complained that the current system is used to deny coverage for needed procedures.