Health Care and Insurance

Anthem pitching new wellness program to employers: Insurer rolls out 360* Health program in Indiana

March 17, 2008
* Health program in Indiana

To Randy Reichmann, warning workers about unhealthy lifestyles was nothing new.

But it took just four words for a new wellness program from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to grab his attention: free gym membership-citywide.

"You can't just say, that's bad for you. You have to say what you're going to do that's good for you," said Reichmann, president of the Indianapolis region for Old National Bank.

The Evansville-based bank is the first Indiana employer to buy Anthem's improved and integrated wellness program, called 360° Health. Old National received free memberships at 100 Indiana gyms for its 2,700 workers by purchasing a premium version of the program.

360° Health is an incremental change to Anthem's wellness programs. It beefs up and better coordinates various wellness, disease management and healthcoaching efforts that Anthem has been doing for years.

Anthem this month began offering a standard version of 360° Health for no extra charge to all its fully insured customers in Indiana-that is, employers buying Anthem's health insurance. Anthem dominates the Indiana market, claiming about 60 percent of all commercially insured customers.

Anthem is also pitching 360° Health to companies like Old National, which acts as its own insurer but hires Anthem to administrate its health plan. Those self-insured companies must pay extra for 360° Health.

Anthem, a subsidiary of WellPoint Inc., is touting 360° Health as another way the Indianapolis-based insurer is helping employers hold down health care costs. WellPoint has rolled out 360° Health on the East and West coasts since 2006.

Indiana is the first Midwestern state to receive the program. By the end of June, WellPoint plans to offer it to all its customers nationwide.

Nearly all health insurers are pushing such wellness programs, including Anthem's main rival, Minnesota-based UnitedHealthcare. The CEO of one of Indianapolis' largest doctor groups said insurers have to offer the programs to justify their premiums.

"All the insurance companies are looking for a way to justify the 25 percent of premiums that they retain," said Dr. Ben Park of American Health Network.

Anthem throws out a mix of statistics and stories to show that 360° Health improves patients' health and productivity, ultimately saving their employers money.

360° Health uses medical claims to flag patients suffering from chronic disease. The program assigns nurses to provide coaching to patients with diabetes, asthma, obstructive lung disorders, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure.

Before, Anthem used its nurses to contact 15 percent of patients identified as at risk of chronic disease. With 360° Health, it's targeting 30 percent of such patients. Anthem also is flagging more conditions, including cancer, low-back pain and kidney disease.

Anthem health coach Marlena Nolan spent more than six months last year talking to an Indiana man who had gone to the hospital because of clogged arteries.

"He was a grumpy old man, and he didn't want to do anything," said Nolan, a registered nurse.

But after phoning every couple of weeks, and joking and teasing him, Nolan got him to pay attention to his health. He stopped smoking and drinking and started limiting the amount of sugar he ate.

Nolan referred the man to Anthem's ConditionCare staff, which focuses on patients with chronic diseases. As part of 360° Health, Anthem has streamlined its computer systems to make such internal referrals easier. It has also trained its staff members so they know the details of all the other parts of 360° Health.

The ConditionCare part of 360° Health helped reduce worker absences by more than half and saved roughly $2.50 in claims costs for every $1 invested in it, according to Anthem's studies.

360° Health also offers health coaching to patients without chronic diseases. A program called Healthy Lifestyles uses nurses, dietitians, nutritionists and exercise therapists to help patients lose weight, quit smoking, manage stress, eat healthy and exercise.

Anthem says its internal studies found that 85 percent of patients who participated in 360° Health improved their health.

"These programs are now designed and staffed with the types of resources that will allow us to basically touch a much higher percentage of these folks in a much more personal way than we have in the past," said Anthem Indiana President Robert Hillman.
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