KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Insurer To Take New Role In Assessing Cancer Treatments

UnitedHealthcare, one of the nation's biggest insurance companies, has decided to take a more active role in the care of its policy holders who are being treated for several types of cancer, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company "has started sending doctors individualized reports assessing their treatment of breast, lung and colorectal cancer patients. The reports show that while breast-cancer patients generally receive care that conforms to professional protocols, treatments given for colorectal and lung cancer tend to fail to meet expert recommendations more often."

Cancer patients cost the firm $2.5 billion a year, a number surpassed only by the costs of cardiovascular disease treatment and orthopedic surgeries. "The company says its goal is not to rank or reward medical practitioners. Rather, it hopes that drawing doctors' attention to how their treatments might vary from medical protocol will reduce unnecessary care that doesn't improve health and raises health-care costs" (Johnson, 2/9).

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