Jun 10, 2021 - Health

UnitedHealthcare delays controversial ER policy

The UnitedHealthcare logo and website on a smartphone.
Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

UnitedHealthcare is delaying a new policy, at least until the "end of the national public health emergency period," that would have declined or limited coverage of an emergency room visit if the visit was found to be non-emergent after the fact.

The big picture: Patients, doctors and hospitals slammed the policy, arguing it violated federal law that requires all emergency care to be covered as long as a "prudent layperson" believes it was an emergency.

Between the lines: The coronavirus pandemic already led to large reductions in patients seeking ER care, leaving experts to wonder why the nation's largest health insurer now wanted to initiate a change that would force patients to diagnose themselves and self-ration care.

  • Anthem tried an almost identical policy back in 2018 and is facing a lawsuit from emergency physicians over that policy.
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