Health Insurance and Employers Offering Wellness Programs
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According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38 percent of Americans who make yearly resolutions make health-related resolutions. If you’re among them, your health insurance company may be able to help you out. More and more insurance companies are offering wellness programs and discounts to customers willing to commit to a healthy lifestyle or to weight loss.
Susan Pisano, spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans, noted that in a recent survey, 90 percent of health insurance companies said they offer some kind of healthy living discount program. Before embarking on a weight-loss plan, check with your insurance company to see if it offers any applicable discounts on wellness programs—or offers a program of its own.
Discount programs provided by health insurance companies
Insurance companies including United Healthcare, Humana, and Aetna offer discounts on weight-loss programs and health supplies such as exercise equipment and fitness apparel. They also offer discounts on other health-related initiatives such as smoking-cessation programs, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic sessions, vitamins, and supplements, as well as books and DVDs about fitness and healthy eating.
In addition, many insurance companies have started offering free or discounted blood pressure screenings and weight-management initiatives. Exercise programs offered by the insurance companies may focus on walking, running, weight training, yoga, or basketball.
Healthy living programs sponsored by employers
You might also want to check with your employer, which may run some kind of healthy living program of its own—a trend many larger companies are starting to adopt. These programs typically include features such as gym-membership discounts, gift cards, or participation-based incentives. With these programs, you complete a course and then do a health-risk assessment that generally results in either a discount on your monthly health insurance premium or money that can be put into a health savings account.
Currently, employers can offer wellness incentives of up to 20 percent of the cost of coverage, but starting in 2014, this can go up to 30 percent—and in some cases 50 percent.
According to Pisano, the person who can have the biggest impact on someone’s health and well being is the patient – him or herself, not a provider. However, prodding people to take better care of themselves through such initiatives can provide real cost-savings—not just for the people who take advantage of these programs but also for the providers and employers who see reductions in healthcare costs.
“I think that consumer engagement is the name of the game,” Pisano said. “We have a healthcare system today where it’s clear that prevention and wellness are the keys to good health and also to affordability. If you’re thinking about 50 years ago, we had a healthcare system pretty much focused on acute care, and we didn’t really subscribe much to the idea of prevention and wellness. Now, we understand those are really the major tools that we have.”
Michelle Stoffel Huffman is a researcher and staff writer for Think Glink Inc. Prior to joining Think Glink, Michelle worked for the Chicago Tribune as a daily news reporter and community manager, covering local government, business, tax issues and crime. She now specializes in real estate industry news, consumer financial reporting and home design and decor. She is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago.
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