Startup insurer affiliated with UnitedHealthcare plans Chicago-area expansion

By Ameet Sachdev, Chicago Tribune

MAY 16, 2016 – UnitedHealthcare‘s experiment in Chicago mixes several elements, including cushioned chairs, a fireplace, yoga classes and free doctor visits. It’s only been four months but so far the nation’s largest health insurer seems pleased with the reaction.

harken 2Its Harken Health subsidiary opened four medical practices Jan. 1 and plans to open six more clinics by the end of the year, said Harken CEO Tom Vanderheyden.

With Harken, UnitedHealthcare is testing whether it can both sell insurance and provide medical care. The strategy is an integrated approach modeled after Kaiser Permanente in California, with the goal to make medicine more personal and comfortable while controlling costs.

Harken’s goal is the intent of the entire health care industry but it remains elusive. The U.S. spends far more on health care than other high-income countries and yet Americans die sooner and experience unhealthier lives than residents in those other nations.

Harken’s focus on the patient starts by making the medical office warm and inviting, Vanderheyden said. The office is designed with big windows to let sunlight in. There are cushioned chairs and a fireplace in the reception area, along with free coffee and free Wi-Fi.


Harken members receive unlimited free doctor visits at the company’s medical offices. The exam rooms feature tables and chairs to encourage face-to-face conversations. Patients spend time not just with physicians but with health coaches who can help manage chronic conditions like diabetes or support wellness aims such as weight loss. The medical centers also offer free classes in yoga, meditation and stress management.



Categories: Business, Inside A Practice, Insurance

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