This isn’t your grandfather’s health insurance.
Health plans today are on a constant search of new ways to engage members in their healthcare, reduce medical costs and satisfy employers, who purchase for roughly half of U.S. residents.
From pay-to-sleep schemes to healthcare transparency, today’s plans are leveraging incentives, technology, improved access and consumerism. Here’s how:
- Rewards for healthy behaviors. Look for more plans that reward employees who lose weight, control blood pressure, monitor blood sugar and more. Atena is even paying its own employees to get enough shut-eye.
- Holistic care. The Affordable Care Act said insurance companies “shall not discriminate” against any state-licensed health provider, leading to more coverage for chiropractic, homeopathic and naturopathic care. With Americans spending nearly $34 billion out-of-pocket on complementary care, insurers are beginning to take note with coverage that even extends to acupuncture and massage.
- Total well-being programs. The latest take on wellness helps employees manage stress, improve resiliency and conquer financial challenges. The 2015 World at Work survey found that nearly 75 percent of employers will increase expenditures on well-being programs over the next two years.
- Fitbits® and more. Fast Company reports that employers nationwide are distributing Fitbits and other activity trackers to motivate healthy lifestyles and make it easier to report wellness participation. It’s the latest twist on reducing obesity, controlling blood sugar and helping people avoid chronic conditions.
- Mobile apps. Today, two-thirds of Americans have a smartphones and a growing percentage are “smart-phone dependent,” according to the Pew Research Center.
Health plans are jumping on the mobile bandwagon with electronic ID cards, online claim statements, health trackers and text-messaging.
- Paperless explanation of benefits (EOBs). There’s a huge shift toward paperless recordkeeping, so savvy insurance companies are providing online EOBs. Now it’s time for doctors and hospitals to catch up: A Deloitte survey found that 70 percent of respondents prefer electronic medical bills, but 98 percent of providers still use paper billing systems.
- Retail-center healthcare. There are 5 million visits to retail health clinics each year, which shows they’re gaining credibility among consumers. Insurance companies are finally getting onboard. Four out of five visits to clinics at Walgreens and CVS were covered by insurance, according to Forbes.
- Many patients find they need a doctor outside of traditional office hours – whether it’s for a child’s middle-of-the-night ear infection or a rash that pops up during a road trip. Telemedicine options allow Skype-like interactions (or a simple phone call) with certified doctors, at a lower cost to consumers than a visit to the emergency room or an urgent care center.
- Comparison shopping. More and more insurers are broaching this taboo topic, according to Forbes. Cost-comparison tools on carriers’ websites let savvy members save on non-emergency care by driving across town: The cost of routine procedures could vary by a factor of nine within the same city.
- Expanded savings accounts. More than 9 million Americans have Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and their tax-advantages are getting lots of press from presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The biggest challenge is education: People are easily confused about how to contribute, how to access funds and what qualifies as eligible expenses, according to The New York Times.