Strategic Plan: The United Health Group

Subject: Business
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 7
Word count: 1735
Topics: Career Path, Communication, Human Resources, Management


Strategic planning is one of the most important activities in both profit-making and not-for-profit organizations worldwide. To remain relevant in their respective markets, companies must continuously evaluate and re-evaluate the effectiveness of their current operational models, including their organizational structures (Schein, 2010). The healthcare industry in the United States is characterized by numerous companies offering different services and products to the American citizenry. One such company is the United Health Group, which is reputable for providing comprehensive health care services to organizations and individuals countrywide. This paper examines strategic planning at the company to understand its model of operation. Further, the paper highlights the organizational structure that the company currently uses.

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Mission and Values


According to the company’s information resources, the mission that drives the UnitedHealth Group in the healthcare industry is to assist people to live lives that are healthier and to improve the health system so that it can deliver better results for everyone. In this respect, the company seeks to enhance the health system for improved performance, while at the same time improving the health and well-being of people and communities served. Additionally, the company collaborates with health care practitioners and other key partners with the goal of expanding access to quality and affordable health care. Lastly, the company makes a commitment to support the relationship between physicians and patients as well as empower communities with tools and information necessary for making informed health care decisions.

Values: The Organizational Culture

The values that the United Health Group upholds provide the foundational aspect of the company’s organizational culture. These values include:

Integrity– The United Health Group believes in the highest levels of personal and organizational integrity, and this is evidenced by the company’s commitment to honor their obligations to their clientele and staff as well as its commitment to never compromise on ethics. The company aims to create an image of a company that operates with the highest standards of ethical behavior. Speaking the truth at all times helps the company deliver on its promises with courage, acknowledge its mistakes, and make necessary steps of redress. 

Compassion– The United Health Group believes that to reach its full potential- helping people live healthier lives- it must understand the needs and realities of the market and align itself appropriately. Towards this, the company walks in the shoes of its customers and employees. Furthermore, the company leadership listens and empathizes with the realities of those it engages with and responds in advocacy and service towards them.

Relationships– To achieve its full potential in the marketplace, the United Health Group, as an entity, understands that it cannot work in isolation. As such, the company continuously engages the efforts and interests of those it serves, building trust through partnerships. Indeed, the company appreciates the value of relationships in helping it reach its goals. Overall, the company approaches its clients and employees with respect, humility, and confidence acknowledging that it must confront issues and not people.

Innovation– The United Health Group believes that its fundamental role in the US healthcare system is to make everyone access quality and affordable health care services. As such, constant change must characterize the industry to address emerging issues. The company makes a commitment to be an agent of such change by exploiting innovation. Learning from experiences of past mistakes is an approach that the company uses in its current operational model. This helps the company gain insights in decision-making. To remain relevant to its employees and clients, the company continuously challenges the status quo by encouraging and investing new ways of doing things.

Performance– The United Health Group understands the challenges that afflict the US health care system. However, it also believes that these challenges are equally matched by the immense opportunities therein. In this regard, the company believes that its mission and vision of helping people live healthier lives can benefit everyone only if the commitment to performance becomes the guiding principle. The company works to be accountable and responsible for delivering, consistently, results of high and superior quality. Striving for better outcomes is a characteristic inherent in the company’s work ethic

The Organizational Structure: Leadership Model

The organizational structure at United Health Group provides an overview of the key leaders and positions that are critical to the company’s mission. The structure of leadership includes the Chief Executive Officer, who also acts as the President of the company. Currently, Stephen J. Hemsley occupies this prestigious position (United Health Group, 2016). The second position is that of the President in charge of both domestic and international businesses, currently held by David S. Wichmann. Other key leadership positions include (United Health Group, 2016):

Vice Chairman, currently held by Larry C. Renfro

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, currently held by John Rex

Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, currently held by Marianne D. Short

Executive Vice President in charge of Human Capital, currently held by D. Ellen Wilson

Founder and Chairman Latin America- Edson Bueno

Executive Vice President, External Affairs, currently held by Cory B. Alexander

Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, currently held by Terry M. Clark

 Executive Vice President, Enterprise Operations, currently held by Dirk McMahan

Executive Vice President, Medical and Chief Medical Officer, currently held by Richard Migliori

Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, currently held by William A. Munsell

Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, currently held by Don Nathan

Senior Vice President (Capital Markets), currently held by John S. Penshan

Executive Vice President (Strategic and Business Management), currently held by Jeannine M. Rivet

Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer, currently held by Tom Roos

Strategic Planning Model

The United Health Group utilizes change theory in its strategic planning model, where it identifies major challenges and then defines long-term goals (Weiner, 2009). Identifying the necessary preconditions for attaining these goals is a key component in change theory. With an employee population of about 110,000 spread in over 300 locations and 41,000 telecommuters, the United Health Group has to utilize the same model of innovation to deliver quality and affordable solutions to the market (United Health Group, 2015). In the course of its operation, the company has managed to double its size through acquisitions. Other driving factors to this monumental growth include exploiting significant changes in demographics and exploiting the market demand for affordable health care. However, the company faced major challenges in sustaining this growth, partly due to a strategic plan design that was increasingly proving unsustainable. Notably, this plan hid the true status of the company’s health care costs and produced low member engagement in health-related activities. As such, the company recognized that to achieve its mission of assisting people to live healthier lives it had to start with its employees. 

In this respect, the company, utilizing concepts of change theory, developed the Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP) way before the federal government passed the Consumer-Driven Health legislation in 2003 (Chen, Levin, & Gartner, 2010). The aim of the CDHP was to avail a more accessible and affordable health care system to the American public. In fact, by 2005, when the company adopted in full the CDHP, only about five percent of consumers had adopted consumer-driven health as a way of cutting costs and improving employee health (Dixon, Greene, & Hibbard, 2008).

Indeed, the CDHP strategic plan saw employee enrolment in consumer-driven health almost triple in a period of six years. Partly, this increment was driven by the development and incorporation of wellness programs, clinical outreach and support, and comprehensive online resources. As at 2014, statistics indicate that employees of United Health Group had reached a 66 percent engagement rate as per the company’s Consumer Activation Index (CAI) (United Health Group, 2016). In essence, the CDHP model has facilitated major changes in the company, especially with regard to its employees’ engagement with health-supporting behaviors (United Health Group, 2015). Indeed, this is part of the larger mission of the company, which is to assist people, including its staff, achieve and live healthier lives.

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Organizational Structure and Service Delivery

At United Health Group, the organizational structure plays a significant role in enhancing service delivery throughout the company’s value chain. For example, the founder and chairman of the board play a major role in exploring viable markets for the company, especially in the international market. The Chief Legal Officer helps the company attain legal, regulatory, and compliance requirements both domestically and internationally (United Health Group, 2016). This is critical in enhancing service provision and eventual attainment of the company mission. The personnel in charge of human capital overseas all aspects of the company’s human resource management, including employee and leadership development, compensation and benefits, and rewards and recognition among others (United Health Group, 2016). The personnel in charge of external affairs overseas various key functions across the enterprise segment, including relationships with governments. The Chief Marketing Officer oversees all aspects of advertising, such as branding, to shape positive customer experience outcomes (United Health Group, 2016). The Chief Medical Officer plays a significant role in enhancing the quality, accessibility, and affordability of health care.

As far as service delivery is concerned, the United Health Group offers health care services to three key segments, namely: individuals and families, employers, and health care practitioners. For the individual and family segment, the company offers comprehensive health coverage, Medicare and Medicaid plans, short-term health insurance coverage, and dental and vision coverage (Patrick, 2015). For the employer segment, the company offers health coverage, health management, and global health solutions (Patrick, 2015). Finally, for the segment serving healthcare practitioners, the company offers value-based care, health management, healthcare network, clinician resources, and Medicaid plans.

Indeed, the United Health Group’s organizational structure is fundamental to the attainment of the company’s mission and strategic goals. The CDHP plan is a perfect example, where the company’s leadership framework worked collaboratively to ensure that employee engagement in consumer-driven health as a success. This strategy resulted in increased employee involvement in wellness programs, which as critical in ensuring healthy living. Regarding costs, the company’s Specialty Pharmacy program is critical in delivering low costs while driving effective health care outcomes.

Going forward, the company focuses on the creation of a stronger organizational culture that delivers health and employee involvement. The new Rally for Health program is an example of an initiative dedicated to providing immediate health benefits that foster health and healthy lifestyles. 

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  1. Chen, S., Levin, R. A., & Gartner, J. A. (2010). Medication adherence and enrolment in aconsumer-driven health plan. The American Journal of Managed Care16(2), e43-50. 
  2. Dixon, A., Greene, J., & Hibbard, J. (2008). Do consumer-directed health plans drive change inenrolees’ health care behaviour?. Health Affairs27(4), 1120-1131.
  3. Patrick, M. (2015, March 3). United Health Group’s OptumHealth-what does it provide?. 
  4. Retrieved from
  5. Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (Vol. 2). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  6. United Health Group. (2016). Facts 2016 Q3. Retrieved from
  7. United Health Group. (2015). Case study: United Health Group. Retrieved from
  8. Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science4(1), 67.
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