Managing your care Featured

8:55am EDT December 20, 2002
A recent survey commissioned by CIGNA HealthCare revealed that 92 percent of workers want to become more informed health care consumers.

More people today -- especially those in younger generations -- are quite comfortable taking charge of their health and well being. The survey bears this out, with 44 percent saying they believe they need to be primarily responsible for making most of the decisions affecting their health care and health care coverage.

More than half -- about 54 percent -- however, aren't familiar with many of the services and programs available to help them. Don't wait until you're sick to find out what your benefits are.

People realize they can't afford -- physically or financially -- to be in the dark about their health care, and are hungry for assistance in becoming better informed and engaged health care consumers. With the pace of change in health care today, insurers have to continue making it easier for people to be informed and engaged, so they can make the best decisions about their health care and coverage.

Here are a few services consumers often overlook.

* 24-hour phone access to nurses, who can answer questions or direct members to the most appropriate care setting. This can be particularly helpful in the middle of the night if you aren't sure what to do and need guidance or a friendly voice.

* Nurse case managers. Some plans assign a nurse case manager, who works directly with patients and families to help them understand their options, identify facilities for rehabilitative services or post-operative care and find additional resources.

* Personalized online health resources. A good Web site should let you order medications, check the status of your claims, find a participating provider, track your deductibles and copayments, order medications and get health news and information tailored to you and your family.

* Disease management programs. If you or a covered dependents have a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, disease management programs can educate you about your disease and help you take steps to lead a more healthy life.

* Discounts on health and wellness services. You can sometimes find discounts on health and wellness services such as health clubs, laser eye surgery, cosmetic dentistry and massage therapy.

Health plans have changed a lot in recent years, offering many new services, resources and support. Take time to understand what's available so you can choose what's best for you and you family, then take advantage of the services you sign up for.

Everyone is concerned about health care costs and the quality of the care they receive. Long term, the best way to manage costs is through quality programs that help people either stay healthy or effectively manage their illness. Many of the services people don't know about are geared to do exactly that.

When you think about it, there is no better win-win: Healthier people and better control of health care costs.

Z. Colette Edwards, M.D., M.B.A., is vice president and senior medical director ofCIGNA HealthCare of Ohio.