United launches rural health initiative

United HealthCare corporation has created a Rural Care Management unit to extend the company’s enrollment base among rural populations, which could open up contracting opportunities for practices in smaller communities.

The Minneapolis-based HMO currently serves about 250,000 rural residents, and plans to use its rural care unit to build that business, says Travers H. Wills, United’s chief operating officer. "We’ve learned that serving rural populations requires a unique focus. We believe that the creation of Rural Care Management will allow us to extend our expertise and capabilities to improve health care for rural Americans," Wills says.

The unit will be based in Hartford, CT, and will be headed by Steve Matheson, a former president of U.S. HomeCare. Matheson also has experience with Cigna Healthplans and Travelers Health Company.