Open Enrollment - Page 6 - More than just Coverage: Perks from Health Insurers

Open Enrollment
- Page 6
More than just Coverage: Perks from Health Insurers
Wellness programs can lead to better health, lower costs

By Megan Weeden
Contributing Writer

If you have health insurance, you probably know that in most cases, preventative medical checkups such as yearly physicals and OB/GYN visits are covered. But, health insurance today is much more than covering just the basics. From 24-hour hotlines to personal health coaching, your insurance company may offer more perks than you realize.

Lifestyle choices such as keeping your weight down, quitting smoking, staying fit and reducing stress are some of the best ways to prevent illness and prolong life – and they could reduce the amount of money you (and the insurance companies) have to spend on hospitalization, drugs and other care. In the end, everyone wins – you may improve your health, leading to a longer, healthier life, and the insurance company may help you avoid incurring costly medical fees with frequent hospital visits or seeing an array of specialists to combat a preventable condition.

Insurance companies are increasingly promoting healthy living, and many of today’s plans include services and programs that will help you maintain or improve your health.

Health insurers are a wealth of knowledge for consumers looking for information regarding preventative care and disease management.

If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, lose weight or manage a condition like asthma or diabetes, you may need extra, ongoing support to reach your health goals. A health coach can offer sound advice to get you pointed in the right direction and will check in regularly to keep you motivated.

Some health plans offer personal health coaching free of charge or may offer discounted gym memberships, weight-loss regimens or other programs to help manage your diabetes. If you’re suffering from heart disease and are a smoker, your health plan may offer counseling or support programs to help you quit and some are offered online. Some carriers may also in fact offer discounts or other financial incentives if individuals follow certain wellness check list items to improve health outcomes.

Many people find holistic treatments to be an effective alternative to pain medication. Your health plan may cover some of the cost of acupuncture, yoga classes, massage therapy, chiropractic and nutrition services or offer discounts on holistic products and nutritional supplements. As always, it’s important to read your insurance information carefully to see what’s covered, and don’t be afraid to ask if you are uncertain, as coverage for these types of services vary from plan to plan.

Kaiser Permanente offers Pathways to a Healthy Lifestyle and Weight to its members, a 12-week program led by a nutritionist. The program, held at various medical centers around Maryland, covers healthy eating, exercise, stress management and will give you the skills to take control of your health.

“It’s completely integrated into our system,” says Amy Arnold, East Coast director of workforce health at Kaiser. “You can have a wellness coach support you in addition to the nutritionist. And if you’re in one of our other disease management programs, like our diabetes program, your whole care management team would be here to support you.”

Many plans have programs that will offer members free blood pressure, cholesterol, height, weight and body mass index screenings. Sometimes, you can fill out an in-depth health questionnaire – giving you a more complete view of your overall health. If you’re covered under an employer group, your employer may even pay you to take it. You might even be offered a health coach to help meet these health goals.

“The total health assessment is a great resource to raise your own personal health awareness but also give you very specific actions for what you can do,” Arnold says.

Arnold says members can even save a trip to the doctor’s office and schedule a phone appointment or call a nurse for advice instead through Kaiser’s comprehensive telehealth.

Through Telehealth, members are able to talk to their providers through secure email, view lab results, schedule appointments, order prescription refills and can even do video visits.

“It’s like a secure version of Facetime where you can see the provider and talk to them. They’re able to pull up your health records and remind you that you’re due for your mammogram or colonoscopy,” Arnold says. “If you have children, you can imagine how convenient this can be.”

Another area health insurance companies are focusing on is mental health by offering classes and workshops in stress management. If you’re part of an employer group, these programs may be brought to your workplace to make it even more easier for you to access care.

Kaiser Permanente members can access Care for Depression, an online resource to help you identify sources of stress and unhealthy habits that may be holding you back. You’ll get a personalized plan to deal with symptoms of depression and develop a more positive outlook.

“Our primary goal is really to help our members be as healthy as possible and we think of total health as mind, body and spirit,”Arnold says.

For other resources available, be sure to check your insurance company’s website. You’ll most likely find valuable resources such as classes, tips for staying healthy, podcasts, videos, workouts and even healthy recipes. Many of these tools are offered for free, so it’s prudent to take advantage of these services that you are already paying for as part of your annual premium.And, you are likely to improve your health – something that no one can put a price on. •