UnitedHealthcare makes strides to promote health equity in Rhode Island

When it comes to health, numbers don’t always tell all. To better identify the health needs of Rhode Islanders, promote health equity and reduce health disparities, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan is going beyond the figures and developing detailed analysis through focus groups and interviews with our Medicaid members. This qualitative approach is timely as a recent federal report1 described the need for qualitative data (e.g., focus groups and interviews) to identify patients’ health needs and improve health.

Health equity is when everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to access health care and to be as healthy as possible. On the flip side, health care disparities are when there are barriers and differences in the amount and quality of care that certain populations receive. It is known that many social determinants of those eligible for Medicaid, such as lack of housing, poverty, food insecurity and more, are barriers to healthy outcomes.

The health equity project is ongoing, but the some of our initial findings include:

  • A desire for more educational information and classes, specifically around chronic disease management, to increase utilization of health care services
  • Suggestions for increased community integration to connect people to services and case workers, ensuring adequate service delivery, to help increase utilization of substance misuse treatment services
  • Current barriers to building trust in health care systems include cost and racial bias. Facilitators of building trust include greater transparency around cost, racial concordance and a greater emphasis on whole-person care
  • Desired social determinants of health programs include improved transportation services and/or reimbursement for commercial rideshares, more coordination for community services, housing programs for people with severe illnesses, culturally specific nutrition program and social support programs specific to subgroups of people

“So I never ever thought to seek out my health insurance company about the housing because I never connected the two things together. I just kind of was like, these two are separate. They're not like about my health. But when you think about it, where you live in your environment really does affect your health. So if I had known that my insurance company had a way for me to get into a shelter faster that would be cool, because it's not that I would get a leg in the door before anybody else, but just a leg up.” 

Health Plan Member


  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Reorienting Health Care and Business Sector Investment Priorities toward health and well-being

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