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Top 4 Consumer Wellness Benefits for Payers to Add to Health Plans

The top wellness benefits payers should consider providing to beneficiaries include fitness center memberships and financial incentives for healthy behavior.

Top wellness benefits payers should consider offering

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- As payers explore innovative ways to improve beneficiary engagement and satisfaction, they may wish to consider adding enhanced consumer wellness benefits to their health plan offerings.

Health plans that take a proactive approach to engaging beneficiaries in healthy behaviors - and rewarded them for it - may see decreased utilization rates, fewer chronic diseases, and lower costs.  

What are the most popular consumer wellness benefits among beneficiaries, and what rewards can payers expect for offering wellness programming to their customers?

Offering wearable devices and apps at free or subsidized costs

The Northwestern School of Professional Studies found that offering wearable devices to beneficiaries has the potential to save $200 billion on healthcare costs over 25 years.

Northwestern also found that Humana, a payer that has actively participated in subsidizing wearables, was able to reduce the number of employee sick days by 44 percent through wearable monitoring programs.

Many rising payers such as Oscar Health are taking this a step further by integrating apps that help patients track and engagement with their personal wellness. These apps can record fitness goals such as steps taken or the results of previous physicals, as well as contact doctors and pharmacies on a 24/7 basis.

Providing financial incentives for wellness activities

The Society for Human Resource Management (SRHM) found that in 2017, employers increased the availability of fitness center memberships by 25 percent, and increased membership offerings to onsite fitness memberships by 26 percent.

Financial incentives may also encourage patients to undertake additional healthy lifestyle activities.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), found that 33 percent of large employers offered workers between $150 and $500 for a health promotion program, while another 23 percent of employers provided workers between $500 and $1000 for health promotion activities.

Popular health plans, including Tufts Health Plan, provide beneficiaries with a fitness club membership rebate. Similarly, Harvard Pilgrim gives members a $150 credit to a variety of gyms and fitness facilities.

Improving preventive care and on-site clinic access for employees

Employer-sponsored health plans also have ample opportunity to help their employees access cost-effective healthcare services in the workplace through on-site clinics.

A Willis Towers Watson employer survey found that 75 percent of employers are implementing on-site clinics to increase employee productivity. Seventy-four percent of employers said that the clinics are part of a business objective to reduce healthcare costs. Sixty-six percent said the clinics were aimed at improving employee access to healthcare services.

The survey also found that many of these on-site clinics provide cost-saving preventive care services including immunizations (99 percent of clinics), acute care services for complaints such as respiratory issues (99 percent), and blood draws (95 percent).

The National Association of Worksite Health Center found that 70 percent of onsite clinics improved the health of employees who utilized the clinics, and 75 percent of clinics helped employees engage with their workplace’s healthcare programming.

Payers that have launched clinics include Cigna, who partnered with CVS health to create retail healthcare facilities that are available for Cigna members.  

Expanding biometric screenings and chronic disease care

The Employee Benefit Research Institute found that biometric screenings are highly valuable to beneficiaries that enroll in a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP), or a similar health plan that encourages beneficiary health engagement.

Over 80 percent of CDHP enrollees reported they participated in a biometric screening,  compared with 64 percent of traditional plan enrollees.

High-deductible health plan (HDHP) enrollees were also more likely than traditional plan enrollees to participate in a biometric screening program (83 percent of HDHP beneficiaries vs. 64 percent of traditional plan members).

Providence Health Plan and Tufts Health Plan are just a few of the payers that offer biometric screenings as a health benefit to manage critical beneficiary health risks.

Payers looking to adjust their consumer wellness benefits for maximized value could implement one, if not several, of these benefits in current or future health plan designs.


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