Aetna takes wellness programs to the general public

By Maryalene LaPonsie on January 17th, 2012

Aetna, a national health insurance provider, has launched a series of four wellness programs designed to help participants quit smoking, get in shape and reduce stress.

The programs - grouped under the umbrella title "My Resources for Living Well" - are not new concepts. But while these types of initiatives most commonly are sponsored by employers or community organizations, Aetna is banking on a new wellness program model sold directly to consumers.

Three Chicago area Best Buy stores will host the pilot program.

Fighting high health insurance rates

In the face of climbing health care costs, wellness programs are touted as a means to promote healthy habits and reduce the incidence of chronic disease.

By avoiding costly or ongoing treatments, a secondary goal of wellness programs is often to reduce health insurance rates. For this reason, wellness programs are becoming more common in the workplace.

Indeed, wellness programs appear to have a payoff for participating companies. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Health Affairs, medical costs fall by $3.27 for every dollar spent on workplace disease prevention and wellness programs. In addition, companies sponsoring these plans can expect to see absenteeism costs drop $2.73 per dollar spent.

Pilot wellness programs

Now, Aetna is taking its wellness programs out of the workplace and directly to consumers with a pilot program launched in Chicago area Best Buy stores. The programs will be sold within a new health technology department the retailer is testing. For $19.95, consumers can purchase a hanging card that will give them access to one of the following wellness programs:

  • LivingFree, a five-week smoking cessation program
  • LivingLean, a 12-week weight management program
  • LivingEasy, a four-session stress management program
  • LivingFit, a 90-day walking program

"Best Buy seemed a natural choice for trying out some of our well-being products with the general public," said Louise Murphy, head of Aetna's behavioral health and employee assistance programs, in a press statement. "If you're in Best Buy purchasing a pedometer or blood pressure cuff, you might also be interested in a program to help you achieve the health goals associated with that equipment. While these products have been available to many of our Aetna members through our employee assistance and WorkLife programs, consumers can now access these wellness resources."

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