3 ways to empower consumers

The shift to a more consumer-focused industry requires insurers to help consumers take responsibility for their own health and care, MedCity News reported.

Insurers can implement solutions that enable consumers to feel more empowered and provide them with tools, resources and incentives to improve their health. Below are some suggestions from the MedCity News article.

1. Understanding benefits

With the rise of business-to-consumer market in the health insurance industry, fewer people have access to an HR manager at work who can explain plan benefits. So many insurers have launched different tools to help consumers make more informed choices based on their preferences, health status and available options. Independence Blue Cross, for example, has been educating consumers about the Affordable Care Act, as well as what health insurance is and how to best use it, Brian Lobley, IBC's senior vice president of Marketing & Consumer Business, previously told FierceHealthPayer. And UnitedHealth developed a "Happiness Counts" kit that informs seniors--via postcards, journals and other information--on how to best manage and take care of their health.

2. Enhancing price transparency

Organizing cost, quality and benefits of various healthcare procedures and services can allow consumers to make more informed decisions, particularly since the cost for the same service varies greatly across the 30 most populous U.S. cities. Such price variation led UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Humana to team up to make reference prices for episodes of care, such as knee replacements and heart surgery, available for consumers to review online.

3. Managing controllable health factors

A large majority of consumers have health conditions that are either preventable or controllable, so insurers often try to empower these members to actively manage their conditions. For example, UnitedHealth has an incentive program that provides up to $175 in gift cards to members who engage in their health by doing things like completing a health assessment, participating in online health programs and working with a telephonic health coach. And Humana has been working to identify and engage their members with moderate risks--people who consume healthcare up to six times more often than lower cost members--by setting goals, monitoring personal performance and providing social support.

To learn more:
- read the MedCity News article