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United Health Foundation Donates $500,000 to University of Chicago Medicine to Support Expanded COVID-19 Testing in Underserved Communities

The United Health Foundation is donating $500,000 to the University of Chicago Medicine to support expanded COVID-19 testing for underserved communities. The financial support will allow UChicago Medicine and the South Side Healthcare Collaborative community health partners to expand testing to up to 1,000 residents a day on the South Side of Chicago, one of the hardest hit areas in the city. The effort is part of UnitedHealth Group’s (NYSE: UNH) initial $70 million commitment to fight COVID-19 and support impacted communities.

“Rigorous testing remains an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19, yet some communities continue to face barriers to accessing testing and other health care needs,” said Dr. Ana Fuentevilla, chief medical officer, Population Health Solutions at Optum, a UnitedHealth Group company. “By partnering with a renowned health care organization like the UChicago Medicine and its South Side Healthcare Collaborative, we are working to address health care equity and ensure access to care for underserved communities in the city of Chicago.”

The United Health Foundation funding will support:

  • Testing at South Side Healthcare Collaborative (SSHC) clinics and community hospitals.
  • Training SSHC clinical staff in COVID-19 guidelines and protocols for testing, as well as treating patients who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Training SSHC clinical staff to conduct contact tracing.
  • Personal protective equipment and supplies to support increased testing.
  • Temporary housing for patients who test positive for COVID-19.

Patients’ insurance plans will be billed for the cost of the test, and the health system will waive copays so there is no out-of-pocket cost to patients. People without insurance also will not face any financial obligations for the test.

The South Side of Chicago suffers some of the worst economic, health, social and violence disparities in the United States. Residents also have significantly higher rates of chronic disease such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, obesity and HIV. Because of these factors, five of the ZIP codes in UChicago Medicine’s service area have among the highest confirmed rates of COVID-19 in the city. They include 60617, 60619, 60620, 60628 and 60643.

“We are grateful to the United Health Foundation for its support of our efforts to provide much needed care to communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 emergency,” said Brenda Battle, vice president of UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “The financial support will allow South Side health care providers to ramp up staff and supplies needed to make testing more widely available to those most at risk in the community, which is critical to our efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19.”

UnitedHealth Group has committed an initial $70 million to fight COVID-19 and support impacted communities including health care workers, hard-hit states and localities, seniors and those experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.

UnitedHealth Group, including UnitedHealthcare and Optum, and its affiliated companies, have a long history of addressing health disparities, including many programs to improve access to care and address key determinants of health such as food insecurity, transportation, housing and more. Additionally, the United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative works to create a more relevant and diverse health workforce, particularly in underserved communities, by increasing the number of primary care health providers ready to meet future health care needs. Since the inception of the Diverse Scholars Initiative in 2007, the United Health Foundation has provided more than $23 million in funding in support of nearly 3,000 scholarships.

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