With growth in the Medicaid market, Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare is launching a mobile app to better connect with people covered by the state-federal health insurance program.

More than 20 states hire UnitedHealthcare to manage care for enrollees in their Medicaid programs. The new app called Health4Me lets people in 17 of those states use their smartphones to more easily review their case history, track claims and find a doctor.

The app also provides a digital health plan ID card, which has proved to be the most popular feature in early testing, said Brett Edelson, vice president of UnitedHealthcare's Medicaid business.

People who qualify for Medicaid coverage have incomes near or below the poverty line. Many at that income level use smartphones, Edelson said, including some who lack other ways for getting online.

"The way you can design an app is just a lot more intuitive and user-friendly," he said. "It's more about improving the way we share information than anything else when we decided to launch this for our Medicaid population."

Apps aren't unprecedented in Medicaid health plans. In February, Minneapolis-based UCare launched an app for people in its Medicaid, Medicare and individual market products.

UCare currently is the largest of four Medicaid HMOs in Minnesota. Collectively, the health plans saw enrollment in Medicaid and a related program called MinnesotaCare jump from 513,115 at the end of 2013 to 671,556 last year, according to the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, a trade group of health insurers.

Plenty of people who enroll in Medicaid have smartphones, said Rebecca Lozano, a health insurance navigator with Portico Healthnet, a nonprofit that helps people sign up for public coverage.

"It's pretty rare that we run into people with an old-school flip phone, at this point," Lozano said. "There are enough smartphones that are available to people, at reasonable prices, that this could be an option."

Expansion of Medicaid eligibility due to the federal health law has been a key factor in enrollment growth across the country, although some states have elected not to expand their programs.

UnitedHealthcare isn't a Medicaid contractor in Minnesota, but works in Wisconsin and a growing number of states. The company posted $23.6 billion in revenue from Medicaid health plans in 2014, up 29 percent from revenue of $18.3 billion the previous year.

The UnitedHealthcare business generated more than half the revenue in 2014 for parent company UnitedHealth Group, which reported overall sales of $130.5 billion.

In 2014, about 5.1 million individuals were covered through Medicaid health plans at UnitedHealthcare. During the first half of 2015, the figure grew by 155,000, the company says.

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck