Alignment Health, Instacart roll out co-branded Medicare Advantage plans

Insurtech Alignment Health is teaming up with grocery delivery company Instacart to roll out co-branded Medicare Advantage (MA) plans next year in 13 California and Nevada counties. 

As Alignment Health aims to carve out a niche in the MA market by offering concierge-type services to its approximately 110,000 members, the company unveiled new benefits for 2024 this year, including an allowance to help seniors pay for groceries that are delivered in a timely manner—often the same day.

The benefits include a $500 quarterly allowance for “essentials” that the health plan will offer to dual eligibles to spend on food as well as to pay for gas, utilities and home safety items. It will be available in four of the six states in which Alignment operates: California, Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina. Alignment also sells plans in Arizona and Texas.

In addition, about 10,000 eligible Alignment members will not have to make any copayments for Part D prescription drugs and can obtain what the insurtech describes as “rich Medicare Part B premium rebates” through its smartHMO product line.

Alignment Healthcare's partnership with Instacart will make nutritious food more accessible to seniors with chronic illnesses in 13 counties, the companies said.

Through that partnership, approximately 30,000 chronically ill dual eligibles who enroll in one of those co-branded plans will have access to $50 to $100 quarterly grocery allowances. The extra benefits also include complimentary Instacart+ membership with free delivery on all orders over $35.

In addition to the quarterly grocery allowances, members will be offered assistance in setting up an Instacart account where they can place orders on the Alignment Health Virtual Storefront.

Members can join the plans during the Medicare annual enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 for coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2024.

It marks Instacart’s first agreement with a MA plan through the company’s Instacart Health initiative, according to the company.

Although the monetary benefit offers relief in inflationary times when every dollar counts, that’s not always the sole reason dual eligibles struggle to eat nutritious meals, Dawn Maroney, CEO of Alignment Health, told Fierce Healthcare. “Not getting access to food doesn’t always mean that they can’t afford it. Sometimes, they’re just afraid to go out or need help doing that. They’re paying attention to gas prices. We’re in a big market in California, and a gallon of gas costs more than $6," she said.

Dawn Maroney
Dawn Maroney (Alignment Health)

Two of the top social barriers impacting senior health are food insecurity and lack of transportation access, which makes it difficult to get to a grocery store, according to a recent Alignment Healthcare report. In the survey, more than 1 in 11 seniors say struggling to put healthy food on the table causes depression and anxiety.

Maroney has been working with the elderly insured for nearly 30 years and has seen the obstacles hindering seniors' ability to age well.

“During that time, I’ve seen a lot of similarities,” she said. “They want coverage. They want peace of mind. They don’t want to burden their loved ones. And I think, how can I, along with our team, think about product customization that really gets better and better each year? And sometimes you wonder if you missed something. But with the dual eligibles, I think we got it spot on.”

Ari Gottlieb, principal at A2 Strategy Group, told Fierce Healthcare in an email that “these moves show the competitiveness of the Medicare Advantage market and how plans that seek to grow are still aggressively investing in benefits. With the Instacart partnership Alignment is joining other plans this year in grocery partnerships around the country.”

Gottlieb, a nationally known healthcare strategist, keeps a close watch on the insurtech industry, often calling out plans such as Bright Health, when top executives there awarded themselves over $4 million in bonuses last year even as the company entered a financial death spiral, and Friday Health Plans, the mismanagement of which led to a liquidation that left other health plans on the hook for millions of dollars in risk adjustment payments.

Gottlieb views Alignment Healthcare as a bright spot in a troubled industry. “Alignment is one of the few successful startup health plans largely owing to a sound strategy and a team that has extensive experience in the health insurance space,” he told Fierce Healthcare. “California is one of the most crowded and mature markets in the country and Alignment is seeking to stand out against a host of competing MA plans, including SCAN and other national plans that also have ambitions to add significant membership.”

Gottlieb said Alignment joins the fray with a strong record of growing membership in its core California service area, adding that “they will continue to seek to grow by offering an extensive set of benefits and linking up with a nationally recognized brand partner.”