UnitedHealth, Cigna Prior Authorization Moves May Signal ‘Course Correction’

Two major health insurers, UnitedHealthcare and Cigna Healthcare, say they’re reworking their prior authorization (PA) policies to improve a process that has triggered a growing chorus of complaints from health care providers and patients. The moves come as CMS is poised to finalize a new regulation that requires insurers to speed up and streamline their PA processes. Industry experts say the policy changes are long overdue and could return PA to serving a useful — rather than overly burdensome — role in the health care system.

In a March 29 post on its website, UnitedHealth wrote that starting in the third quarter of this year, it will eliminate “nearly 20% of current prior authorizations, as part of a comprehensive effort to simplify the health care experience for consumers and providers.”

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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