UnitedHealth Touts ASC Savings, But Are There Drawbacks?

A newly published report from UnitedHealthcare makes a strong financial case for moving routine, non-complex medical procedures — such as a gallbladder removal — from hospital outpatient departments to ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). However, one industry observer cites a potential downside to shifting low-risk surgeries away from hospitals, and research suggests that access to ASCs is not equal across all populations.

For its report, UnitedHealthcare examined claims data from the insurer’s employer-sponsored plan members during the 12 months ending February 2020. Of the 6 million routine outpatient procedures that were performed in hospital outpatient departments for this population, 56% involved non-complex patients who had an ASC within a short distance from their homes. If such patients were to choose an ASC as their site of care, it would reduce the cost of routine procedures by an average of 59% — saving consumers $684 on average per procedure, according to UnitedHealthcare.

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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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