UnitedHealthcare is trying to sell consumers and medical providers on a new online payment system that eliminates one step in the cumbersome billing process. The pitch, sent out to participants via email blast, promises more time for vacation. “Don’t spend your summer buried under paper when you can be soaking in vitamin D and enjoying vacations with your family….” the pitch goes. Really?
Since I’m the payor for my family medical bills and stuck with the paperwork, I thought I’d give it a try and see how it works in combination with the Forbes high deductible plan that’s paired with a health savings account (with a generous employer contribution).
The idea of the new payment feature is that the 21 million participants covered under UnitedHealthcare plans can now pay their medical bills directly on www.myuhc.com through InstaMed. There are no fees to consumers regardless of which payment option (e-check or credit/debit card) they choose, assures Victoria Bogatyrenko, a vice president or product development at UHC.
I logged on and saw that I had three bills outstanding for family member visits to a pediatrician, an orthopedist, and a physical therapist, so I clicked on the “Make Payment” buttons for each bill. Not one of the three providers had signed up yet to accept online credit/debit card payments. Bogatyrenko says UHC won’t disclose the number of providers who have registered for the service (providers pay a processing fee to InstaMed) but she expects the number to grow “dramatically” in the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime, you can pay via bank draft – so I plugged in the bank account number for my health savings account. (The OptumBank routing number is listed on the bank’s “Contact Us” page. It’s 124384877.) Once you enter the bank (or credit/debit card) information for the first bill, if you save it, you simply click on the Make Payment button for subsequent bills, and you’re one click away from paying. It’s like one-click shopping on Amazon.com. It definitely beats waiting for paper bills from your doctor, comparing them to explanation of benefit forms, and mailing in your payment via U.S. mail.
Now if UHC can just figure out a way to speed up claims processing even more so that I could get my final bill when I check out at the doctor’s office. Then I’d celebrate with a day at Jones beach.