Insurers proactively help members with disabilities

Health insurers like Cigna are taking steps to proactively help their members with disabilities. Although insurers have long covered certain disability services, they are beginning to expand beyond simply paying claims to actually becoming involved in their members' recovery.

"In the last 10 or 15 years, insurers and employers have recognized the opportunity to go beyond disability payments and help people injured or ill return to their previous lives or build new ones," National Business Group on Health CEO Helen Darling told The Washington Post.

Cigna, for example, has been encouraging its members with disabilities to contact certain charities and groups, including Achilles International, which partners people with disabilities with volunteer runners for encouragement and support. The insurer also provides these members, who typically are recovering from musculoskeletal conditions, amputations, cancer, diabetes and brain injuries, with vocational counselors and other services.

And Aetna has been funding research and distributing technology such as hands-free phone systems and ergonomic keyboards to help its members with disabilities return or adapt to their work environment.

Other insurers have worked with their employer clients to help their disabled employees either adjust or return to work with better workloads, schedules and facilities, the Post noted.

Such steps can reduce insurers' overall healthcare costs by "preventing secondary health events, such as bedsores and diabetes caused by inactivity," said Joe Canose, a senior vice president of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. "So these emerging programs make sense on many levels."

In fact, Cigna's fiscal year 2012 second quarter results showed it had better-than-expected group disability earnings, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post article