ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: Insurer Covers All ‘Elements’ of Health
As many large health insurers test the waters of alternative therapies by offering members limited coverage, California's Elements Inc., has dived right in to the area, taking a truly holistic approach to insurance. Through its "Elements Whole Health Program," the company is attempting "to carve a niche by offering a policy that seeks to cut costs not by limiting treatments ... but by encouraging 'wellness' through more than medicine," reports the Wall Street Journal/California Edition. The insurer hopes to help members maintain "optimum health" by focusing on the "'five elements of wellness': the physical, the financial, the spiritual, the self and relationships," offering a 24-hour hotline with nurses and counselors who dole out confidential advice for a range of problems from minor medical maladies to financial, legal and spiritual consulting. The company also provides a secure, customized Web site for each company's employees, with access to online seminars, discussion groups and health information. For some California businesses looking to avoid predicted hikes in HMO premiums, the "New Age approach is just the right prescription." Arnold Freiman, who established the program in June as an alternative to managed care plans, said that "Elements will cost employers the same or less than their current provider." Several companies, mostly associated with the natural-food industry and employing a total of about 2,000 people, have signed on thus far; one company saw its health care expenditures drop by 22%, according to Freiman. He admits, however, that the plan, which requires employers to venture into self-funding, "makes sense only for companies with 150 or more employees." Even with a "reinsurance" policy to cover catastrophic claims, it is too "risky and costly" for small businesses to undertake self-funded plans, where premium dollars go into an account reserved for claims payments which are usually processed by a third party, said Maureen O'Haren, executive vice president of the California Association of Health Plans (Muto, 10/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.