Jan 30, 2019

UnitedHealthcare stops sharing data with research group

UnitedHealthcare and the Health Care Cost Institute have ended their partnership. Photo: UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealthcare will no longer provide deidentified claims data to the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonprofit group that researches health care spending. Three other health insurers — Aetna, Humana and Kaiser Permanente — still give data and funding to HCCI, but Humana also has signaled it will stop doing so next year.

Between the lines: The medical claims data these insurance companies possess are very valuable, and ending a research agreement aligns more with their financial interests than the broader interest of industry transparency.

What they're saying: Niall Brennan, CEO of HCCI and a former data officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said that "nobody is mandated to be a part of HCCI," but it "was definitely a surprise" to hear UnitedHealthcare was ending their agreement. He directed other questions to the health insurer.

  • UnitedHealthcare said in a statement that it "appreciated the partnership" with HCCI over the past 7 years and that it still shared data with some academic institutions. But the insurer raised broader questions about "data security and privacy."
  • Humana did not immediately respond to interview requests.

Yes, but: All data shared with HCCI is stripped of personal information to protect patient privacy.

  • Financial considerations likely also played a role. Optum, a sister company to UnitedHealthcare, sells data analytics services.

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