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Health insurance companies turn to wellness programs to reduce costs

By Maryalene LaPonsie on November 9th, 2011

Health insurance companies have rolled out wellness programs across the country in a bid to keep policyholders healthy. Two of the latest offerings come from Aetna and UPMC Health Plan.

Aetna provides free-standing health clinics

Taking time off to get to the doctor can be a challenge for some workers, so Aetna is helping bring the doctor to the workplace. Through a partnership with Computerized Screening Inc., Aetna is arranging for self-insured employers to lease free-standing health clinics and provide on-site medical care for minor concerns.

The clinics allow employees to address minor medical issues such as allergies, cold and flu symptoms, pinkeye, and rashes. Employees can also:

  • Create personalized reports based upon weight, height, blood-oxygen level and blood pressure.
  • Participate in voice or video consultations with a state-licensed, board-certified doctor.
  • Access wellness tools such as a medical encyclopedia and video library.

"The health station is a benefit that can help employees manage today's busy lifestyles and help employers promote employee health and productivity, while reducing health care costs," says Jay Eisenstock, head of Aetna's Provider eSolutions.

UPMC Health Plan rewards good habits

While the Aetna program focuses on making health care convenient, UPMC Health Plan is counting on a financial incentive to improve the wellness of its members. The new HealthyU program is tied to high-deductible medical insurance. High-deductible plans offer lower premium costs and tax benefits to policyholders, but also require members to pay out of pocket for a significant portion of their medical care in the form of a deductible.

As part of the HealthyU program, policyholders set up a health incentive account, also known as an HIA, to offset these out-of-pocket expenses. Members can choose from100 wellness activities – from getting a flu shot to having a dental cleaning – that result in a financial incentive being deposited in the HIA. The value of the incentives varies and may range from $50 to $300, depending on the activity.

"HealthyU is a unique combination of a high-deductible health plan and a healthy living rewards program," says Kimberly Cepullio, vice president of sales and account management for UPMC Health Plan. "Consumers who improve their health behaviors and become engaged in their medical care decisions have been shown to consistently improve their health and reduce their health care costs."

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