Free Wellness from your Insurance Carrier

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In the past few years, many health insurance carriers have begun offering wellness tools to their customers – often at no additional cost.  It has a lot of appeal to overworked HR managers who often have little training or experience with wellness.  Here’s why it’s appealing:

  1. It’s “free”  (I would bet the farm the costs are baked in somewhere)
  2. It looks sexy
  3. It’s integrated with the health plan
  4. It’s reportedly “turnkey”

In reality, expecting these free wellness tools to get results is like dropping your child off at the school library (complete with computers, phones, books, etc) each fall and expecting an honor student when you pick them up the next year.  Much of the information and supplies are there, but there is no curriculum, no motivation, no regular accountability, celebration, no social support, etc.  Students need teachers.  Athletes need coaches.  I don’t recall John Wooden winning 10 championships over the phone.

Then why do they offer it?  I recently read a great blog entitled, “Ten Reasons Why Fully Insured Commercial Health Insurers Don’t Offer Worksite Wellness Programs For Their Customers”.  I probably would have called it, “Why Wellness from Most Insurers Is Only Window Dressing”.  As health insurance carriers consider how to grow their profits, there are quite a few factors that impact profits ahead of wellness.  In a webinar where Andrew Sykes, a well-known actuary, spoke about the carriers’ motivation for wellness, he assured the audience that carriers were truly serious about wellness.  They want sexy wellness tools to attract and retain their clients who are interested in wellness.  However, they really don’t care if the tools get results. After all, what’s their motivation for reducing claims?  When claims go up, their revenues and profits go up proportionately.  Their motivation for doing wellness is more likely customer loyalty – like frequent flyer programs.

Where does wellness stack up on the priority list as carriers try to boost profits?  Number FIVE.

1. More accurate underwriting

2. Better provider network with deeper discounts

3. Favorable plan designs that shift cost to employees

4. Efficient claims management

5. Wellness tools or budget

Unfortunately, many employers take the easy bait, and they loose several years of progress before they learn that wellness from carriers is only one-size-fits-all tools. It doesn’t do much to gain the trust of employees either, who are wary of carriers gaining more information about them.  Once again, there are no free lunches…

2 Comments
  1. Renzie Richardson 4 years ago

    Great article! During the early years of defining ACA, the insurance companies started adding health and wellness “programs” which also included a HRA. I first reaction was the “fox in the hen house dressed in sheep clothing.”

    The insurance company portal may seem to be an added-value, and it is – for the insurance provider. What a delicious gift for risk data to be collected for underwriters.

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