It is a Matter of Time Before Every Health Plan Has a Rewards Program

Rewards for healthy behaviors have been growing at leaps and bounds as a way to reduce healthcare costs for several years. In 2009, employers offered employees $260 in rewards for making healthy choices. Now, companies are projecting to spend $693 per employee on wellness incentives. ObamaCare added fuel to the fire. It increased the allowable amount of rewards from 20 percent to 30 percent (and in the case of smoking cessation) 50 percent of annual premium. Forbes named “health rewards” as two of the top 5 health IT trends in 2014.“Incentive Driven Healthcare” is here to stay.

Why don’t health plans want consumers to know this? It seems like a win-win. Well in some ways they do. Health plans win by reducing costly behavior through prevention and lifestyle changes. Consumers benefit not only by getting healthier and making better health decisions, but by receiving rewards. This is all true. But in some ways they don’t. Once consumers realize that purchasing health insurance, while incredibly personal, is nothing more than purchasing another consumer product, the marketers of the world will be faced with a health rewards competition.

ObamaCare created “exchanges” or “marketplaces” through which health insurers compete for the business of individuals and businesses. These marketplaces were established with a series of pre-packaged health plan options, which limit the variations in using traditional levers such as coverage and networks. Health plans that were used to competing on these levers are left with a single lever – price. Selecting from gold, silver and bronze hardly creates differentiation among UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Aetna, Humana, Wellpoint, the Blues and many other plans in the United States.

Think of your credit card, hotel, airline or favorite retailer. It is a sure fire way to create loyalty, brand affinity and engagement. Let’s be honest, you are more inclined to use specific services or retailers if they provide a robust rewards program. When marketers of consumer products ask themselves “what tools do I need to attract, retain, and generate loyal customers?” the answer inevitably comes to reward programs.

As further evidence, consumers across multiple demographics were interviewed on what they wanted from their health plan. The only item that appeared in every demographic was “rewards for healthy behavior.” Would you have a more positive opinion of your health plan if they sponsored a program that rewards consumers for healthy behaviors? According to a Welltok survey, 75  percent of respondents agree. Furthermore, 81 percent said that access to such a program positively influences their decision to renew with their current plan. Not to mention, the fact that incentives are a proven means to motivate health choices and change behaviors. More than 96 percent of consumers would engage in healthier behaviors if rewarded.

Health plans are entering a new competitive landscape. Rewards will not only be an essential component, but will also drive a healthier population – creating a win-win situation for all.


Dermer

Michael Dermer is the Chief Incentive Officer of Welltok. Prior to his current role, Michael was the founder and CEO of IncentOne, the first company that in 2003 identified incentives in healthcare as a critical solution to driving consumer and provider engagement.  Michael is considered one of the nation’s experts on rewards and incentives in healthcare –learned in running over 4,000 programs and 40 million transactions over ten years. His personal mission is a national reward program in which all Americans can “be healthy and be rewarded.” Since 2003, he has been guiding health plans, employers, health systems, governments and providers in how to use incentives to deliver cost reductions and health improvement.

Twitter: @rewardforhealth

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeldermer

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