UnitedHealth to Provide Claims Data to Researchers

The Minnetonka-based insurer and three other U.S. insurers will reportedly supply data to a newly created nonprofit group that will distribute it to researchers for analysis.

Four major U.S. health insurers-including Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group-have agreed to hand over their claims data to academic researchers on a regular basis, a move that will provide a new look into rising health care costs.

According to The New York Times, the insurers will supply information on more than 5 billion medical claims, which together represent more than $1 trillion in spending, to the Health Care Cost Institute-a newly created nonprofit group. The insurers also will provide start-up financing for the group.

Medicare currently shares its data with researchers, albeit with some confidentiality restrictions, but only bits and pieces have been made available from private insurers.

“Our perspective is that the nation needs greater transparency about what is driving health care costs,” Simon Stevens, an executive vice president for UnitedHealth Group, told The New York Times.

The claims data will be updated at least twice a year, and the institute will provide it to qualified researchers for analysis, according to the newspaper. The institute also will release twice-a-year summaries to the public-which won't have access to the full data set.

Approximately $2.6 trillion is spent annually on health care in the United States, and that figure is expected to grow by about 80 percent within the next decade, according to The New York Times.

To read more in the newspaper about the claims data, how it will be used, and the conclusions researchers might be able to draw with it, click here.