Majority Press

Casey Secures Commitment from UnitedHealth to Lower Barriers to COVID-19 Vaccines


Washington, D.C. – In a letter today, U.S. Senate Aging Committee Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) announced commitments he secured from the nation’s largest commercial health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, that will lower barriers to COVID-19 vaccines for children and adults across the United States.

Following inquiries from the Aging Committee, UnitedHealth pledged earlier this month to reprocess claims from a nearly four-month period from mid-March to July 1, 2021. During that time, UnitedHealth was paying health care providers roughly $15 less per vaccine administered than rates set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, reportedly making the company an outlier among industry peers.

Pediatricians raised concerns that the underpayments were discouraging providers from offering COVID-19 vaccines for their patients, creating potential access barriers for patients seeking to be immunized. Increasing the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine rates helps protect children, the general public, people with compromised immune systems and older adults, including more 7 million grandparents who live with their grandchildren.

“The ongoing effort to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates across our Nation demands an all-hands-on-deck approach. Ensuring that all eligible children are vaccinated against COVID-19 is key to improving the overall vaccination rate, which will better protect older Americans by helping stem the spread of the virus,” Casey wrote. “Such efforts are of particular importance ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s expected consideration of COVID-19 vaccines for young children later this month.”

In addition to reprocessing claims, Chairman Casey announced that UnitedHealth has pledged to:

  • Review its claims process to minimize delays in making payments to providers for COVID-19 vaccines;
  • Verify that there are no similar underpayment issues in its Affordable Care Act Exchange and Medicaid Managed Care books of business; and
  • Provide updates to Aging Committee staff on the company’s progress toward meeting these goals.

Chairman Casey also is seeking information regarding the exact number of claims UnitedHealth will reprocess, the total amount that UnitedHealth paid to providers to settle these claims, and information about the steps the company will take to ensure such underpayments will not arise again.

More than 26 million people were enrolled in UnitedHealth's employer and individual plans at the end of 2021, and the company has 1.4 million providers in its network, according to its most recent annual report. UnitedHealth has an estimated 14 percent market share, according to a recent report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.