Health programs and services Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2007

In addition to traditional benefits plans, many insurers are now offering a variety of health programs and services that give people easy, convenient ways to maintain healthy and active lifestyles. These programs and services are available in a number of formats designed to save consumers time and money.

“As employees are taking more responsibility for health care decision making and spending, they are looking for convenient ways to manage their health care dollars,” says Bill Berenson, senior vice president of Aetna's Small and Middle Market Business for the North Central Region. “Many of the new programs and services insurers are offering address the consumer need for easy, low-cost ways to stay healthy. Employers now have several low-cost ways of attracting and rewarding employees while providing opportunities to access quick, convenient and frequently discounted services.”

Smart Business spoke with Berenson about the types of programs and services that are available and their accompanying health and cost benefits.

What are some examples of health programs and services that insurers typically offer?

Some of the more common examples include access to in-store clinics, as well as fitness and wellness discounts and innovative health-related credit card programs.

What are the benefits of using these services?

Convenience, cost savings and many options from which to choose are significant benefits of these programs and services. They give consumers greater control over what kind of health and wellness options to pursue and when and how to do so. All of these opportunities can help individuals achieve and maintain their optimal health.

Can these programs and services address health problems?

For certain common health problems, walk-in clinics, usually found in stores or pharmacies, provide a convenient alternative when a patient cannot see his or her primary care physician. Of course, consumers should continue to use their primary care physician as their first recourse for care, and it’s important to recognize that walk-in clinics are not meant to treat serious illness or emergency situations. But with a member’s permission, treatment information is shared by the health clinic with his or her primary care provider.

How do these services help people become and stay healthy?

Options like fitness and wellness discounts offered through an insurer make it easier to take part in value-added programs geared toward activities such as weight management and fitness.

Enrollment in a weight management program can help individuals lose weight, feel better and develop a balanced, managed approach to an active lifestyle. In addition, regular exercise can help people maintain a healthy weight, which may lower their risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, depression and anxiety, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

What benefits do credit-card-style programs offer consumers?

Innovative credit card programs can offer a low-APR, flexible method of paying for out-of-pocket health care expenses, while promoting healthy living behaviors. They may facilitate payment of out-of-pocket medical expenses as well as everyday purchases, while promoting healthy living at the same time. These credit card programs can offer a variety of unique features, including health-themed rewards programs that encourage wellness behaviors and help consumers offset both current and future health care expenses.

What other kinds of discounts are available?

Other programs offer discounts on eye care products and services, including eye exams, eyeglasses, LASIK surgery, contact lenses and other eye care accessories. Some offer discounts on complementary and alternative medicine services and products, exemplifying the wide array of options available to the cost-conscious consumer. Still others can help save money on dental, pharmacy and long-term care services. Such a broad selection of products and services can offer people greater health care choice and flexibility. Participants may pay a low monthly or annual fee for each program, which offers access to individual providers who give participants discounts on certain services.

BILL BERENSON is senior vice president of Aetna's Small and Middle Market Business for the North Central Region. Reach him at (312) 928-3323 or