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August 25, 2007

Insurance group reaches out to underserved areas

A major insurance group said it will distribute $25 million in grant money to improve health care in medically underserved areas of California such as the San Joaquin Valley.

Health clinics, hospitals and community organizations can apply to UnitedHealth Group and its subsidiary PacifiCare for grants ranging from $100,000 to $5 million. The program grew out of regulatory approvals for UnitedHealth Group's acquisition of PacifiCare in 2005. The $8.1 billion acquisition created a larger health insurance group serving about 70 million people nationwide.

Grants will be awarded over the next three years for technology improvements, medical education, efforts to prevent chronic disease, telemedicine and coordinated care initiatives. Last year, UnitedHealth awarded a $5 million grant for developing a medical school at the University of California at Merced.

"We would encourage organizations in Stanislaus and neighboring counties to apply for these funds," said Tyler Mason, a spokesman for UnitedHealthcare, a division of UnitedHealth Group. "These dollars are available to improve access to health care by using technology and education."

The program has given money to telemedicine projects for improving prenatal care in rural areas, Mason said. Another area of interest is coordination of care for patients who are discharged from hospitals to skilled nursing facilities. Often, the nursing facility isn't close to the hospital and patients don't receive the follow-up care they need, Mason said.

The UnitedHealth Group grants also are intended to address physician shortages predicted in a 2005 University of California study. That study said the southern part of the Central Valley is prone to shortages of health care workers.

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Posted by healthinsurance at August 25, 2007 08:12 PM