UnitedHealth sees $332 bln in U.S. health savings

CHICAGO, June 30 Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:02pm EDT

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CHICAGO, June 30 (Reuters) - Making better use of technology could reap savings of $332 billion across the U.S. health care system over a decade, UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) said in a report released on Tuesday.

The report identifies ways that technology can be applied to save money by modernizing the administrative and transactional aspects of health care.

For example, use of automated cards swiped at the doctor's office or hospital to validate patient benefits could generate $18 billion in savings alone, according to the paper.

"Other sectors of the economy have mastered it long ago, and it's time for healthcare to catch up," Simon Stevens, UnitedHealth Group executive vice president, said on a conference call with media.

UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer by market value, said its own technology systems annually process 60 billion transactions and support 82 million calls routed to 20,000 service agents.

The report proposes 12 broad changes to the system, including replacing "explanation of benefits" letters with monthly personalized health statements and creating a national clearinghouse to address payment errors and settle payment balances.

Physicians and hospitals would garner about half of the $332 billion in savings identified in the report, while the government would capture about 20 percent through Medicare and Medicaid and health plans the remaining 30 percent, UnitedHealth said. (Reporting by Susan Kelly; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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