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UnitedHealth Buys Another Wellness Company – Biometric Monitoring For Data With Employer Contracts

Posted Feb 26 2010 11:43am

Wellness programs are not a bad thing, but implementation and privacy of the data is the big question here.  When you have major health insurance companies who are sold on the stock exchange and are under recent fire for premium increases, you soon realize that wellness, when ownership is from companies who have their number one alliance by law to stock holders, is going to provide this in a fashion that generates profits first, and if some healthy outcomes result, then it substantiates the investment.  

This is really a mixed bag here as there certainly are some benefits, but stop and look at who has access, a subsidiary of a major insurance carrier here, think about it.  Wellness should be removed in it’s current format with employers and remodeled.  If you really want to provide care and education, what is happening today is not doing the trick.  Add in the new GINA rules where a healthcare assessment can’t include family history now and what are we accomplishing, not much, but the algorithmic formulas to cut cost simply remove those who need care.  Furthermore if a small company is too costly, they get dropped.

This will NEVER work with insurers who are on the market to make dollars and we would be better served with a non profit model that entertains an alternative role of action.  Why do you think we have such a battle going today?  Can we not see the forest for the trees?  Algorithmic formulas that are created for profit don’t ride in the same lane on the highway as healthcare reform, they are telling us, but do lawmakers listen?

Also worth mentioning is how does all this come together with the advice given for your health from your doctor, are we setting the stage for some potential collision courses here?  Could be as most physicians are not aware of the technology and devices that are emerging on the scene either, they don’t even know what a PHR is, take that first hand from someone who talks to many of them.  We have a big lack of training and education right on the forefront that nobody is adequately addressing, plus a lack of participation from Congress all the way down the ladder.

Behavioral underwriting is the next big move for health insurers.  Red Brick insurance is a client of Ingenix, another United Healthcare subsidiary and read up on how this works.  What amazes me is the rapid implementation of biometric reporting and screening, and yet we can’t even use a cell phone without disruption, so how’s this all going to work without proper planning and implementation – sad answer is the folks that are creating and putting these services out for use don’t care, it’s all in making a buck and you roll with the flow, tie yourself to a device and deal with it as the stockholders need to be satisfied. 

This is the reality and it’s a shame that with meaningful use, biometric and mobile devices seem to be forgotten. 

The White House seems to get some of this, but we have a Congress that is oblivious and should entertain trying some of this out themselves so perhaps they can see what is happening further behind the scenes and wake up. 

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Don’t believe what you are reading yet, watch this video from the CEO of Red Brick, it will tell you all about it.  The entire problem once again is when for profit companies own wellness companies, there’s big privacy concerns and you don’t really know who’s seeing your data, again it’s for profit.  So here within this post we see 2 active subsidiaries of UnitedHealthcare in action, Ingenix who RedBrick uses as a partner (I am guessing their analytic systems for predicting and scoring) and the Optum Wellness program that helps consumers analyze and collect their health information. 

United Healthcare as well as other insurers stated memberships in some areas were dwindling, and yet profits, big profits are still made with fewer members.  With all their recent investments, to include Cisco with telehealth, it appears they are largely on the way to a business model that will require perhaps even fewer insured down the road as they also sell their analytical services of Ingenix to hospitals and governments to run algorithmic scoring software to process claims. 

Guess what, this about the same as the job market right?  Economy doing better but the stimulus can’t create enough jobs fast enough to help replace those falling out the bottom, with the algorithms used on Wall Street, it’s the same type of business with greedy investors and companies working it.  Think kindly of the stimulus as it is there to help.  We had both ABC and Continental Airlines laying people off this week, why, digital technology where humans used to provide the services and the same is happening in healthcare with insurers, automated claims and behavioral algorithms. 

We are back once more to the algorithmic formulas and data and there’s certainly no shortage with United Healthcare investing in technology either directly or through subsidiaries and now the Wellness efforts with using biometric monitoring appear to be growing.  People would not resent and distrust all of this technology if the fear of it being used against you for paying claims and eligibility were gone, again one more reason the “for profit” health insurance companies are under fire, as they have not been honest so one has to assume and believe this is not going to change from what we are seeing today.  United even makes money from other insurers as well as you can read in the link above, Wellpoint contracting with Red Brick, who is a client of Ingenix, and the circle keeps going and I just try to connect the dots so hopefully individuals can see and understand who is working with who and where one companies investment opens up other areas of potential revenue income, all coming back to the use of the “the algorithms” and with today’s announcement we can combine algorithms for wellness data in a larger data base and offer services based on each company’s solution perhaps, biometrics and data, “stockholders” will prosper as the CEO of United reminds us.  BD   

  UnitedHealth Group Inc. ’s OptumHealth Care Solutions business unit has purchased a health screening company in Illinois.

Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) didn't disclose financial terms of its deal for Wellness Inc. of Aurora, Ill. Wellness is a 23-year-old company that emphasizes preventative care to manage employee health, offering biometric screenings, flu vaccinations and lifestyle-health assessments in the workplace. The firm has more than 1,000 company clients.

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