Humana making strides toward its 'Bold Goal'—but work remains on behavioral health

Humana has made strides in its goal of bringing more “healthy days” to its Medicare Advantage members, according to a new report. 

The insurer released a report Monday that shows the communities participating in its Bold Goal project—which aims to reduce unhealthy days by 20% by 2020—have collectively cut down unhealthy days by 2.7% since 2015. Some communities have seen larger decreases; for example, members in San Antonio saw a 9.8% decrease. 

By comparison, Humana’s MA population outside of the program saw a 0.6% increase in unhealthy days, according to the report. 

That metric comes (PDF) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is a tool for measuring patients' quality of life in population health initiatives. To find unhealthy or healthy days, patients are polled about their mental and physical health, including if their mental health prevented them from performing their typical daily activities. 

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Caraline Coats, vice president of Bold Goal and population health strategies at Humana, told FierceHealthcare that the concept of community is central to the program’s improvements so far. 

“Humana started this bold goal through the partnership with different clinicians, and that allows us to make this difference,” Coats said. “It’s continuing to fuel our ability to scale—that's fundamental to making a difference on this bold goal.”

The program is bolstered by several targeted pilots in the study’s different regions. As the population included is seniors, interventions are aimed at social determinants of health such as loneliness, nutrition and transportation. 

In Tampa, for example, Humana has teamed up with an organization called Papa, which pairs college students—called Papa’s Pals—with senior citizens to alleviate their loneliness. In that region, unhealthy days have decreased by 3.7%, and members say they feel less socially isolated.

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However, while the team at Humana is pleased with the results, 2.7% is still far from its 20% goal—and one of the key areas for improvement is in behavioral health. 

Broward County, Florida, another region in the program, saw a 3.6% increase in unhealthy days since the program launched, driven largely by an increase in reported depression and behavioral health concerns. 

Andrew Renda, M.D., corporate strategy director for population health at Humana, told FierceHealthcare that the days reported as “mentally unhealthy” are often linked back to the social determinants that impact physical health. For instance, concern about running out of food could lead to anxiety that worsens mental health. 

"Behavioral health conditions, where they exist—that, I think is a huge opportunity for us going forward,” Renda said.