HMOs Offer Reward Programs for Healthy Choices
Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal on Thursday looks at the increasing number of health plans that are rewarding members who exercise, lose weight or quit smoking with "everything from health club memberships to European vacations." For example, Destiny Health has a program that gives members points for taking a CPR class, starting an exercise program, losing 10 pounds in six months, getting their cholesterol level tested, looking up health information online or opting for generic rather than brand-name medications. PacifiCare Health Systems is launching a similar program next month that will award points to members, which will allow them to participate in drawings for prizes or receive premium discounts and lower copayments for doctor's appointments. Aetna plans to expand its program, which rewards members who fill out an online questionnaire about their health and follow the insurer's suggestions to reduce the risk of illness. WellPoint Health Networks has a rewards plan, and Cigna is considering one. Officials at Destiny and PacifiCare said that program costs are "marginal" but the potential savings for insurers, employers and members are significant. Health plans might also use such programs to boost enrollment and retain healthy members, who drive down insurance costs, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal (Bennett, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 9/25).
In related news, nearly 50% of people have began dieting, 37% have undergone routine screening tests, 34% lost weight and 30% have begun exercising more in an effort to reduce their need for increasingly costly health care, according to a nationwide online poll released Wednesday by Fidelity Investments, Reuters/Houston Chronicle reports. The survey of 1,775 workers also says that 33% of insured workers are concerned that their incomes might not keep pace with rising health insurance premiums. While most respondents said they had sufficient information to understand their health coverage, some said that some health plans' policies on copayments and services were confusing. "With health care benefits becoming increasingly expensive, employees must understand their health plans and assess their families' medical needs" when choosing a plan, Sarah Donnelly, vice president of the Fidelity Employer Services Company, said in a statement (Reuters/Houston Chronicle, 9/24).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.