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How Unions Benefit from the Value of Integrated Health Services

By Heather Kerrigan | Aug 1, 2018

Boards often believe that carving out health care services and offering them individually can save money and provide more flexibility for members, who may not want or need a full suite of health care benefits. In reality, integrated health services that combine medical, prescription drug, dental, vision and other coverage result in greater savings and better outcomes for the board and members alike.

Cost Savings for the Board and Members

Integrated health services encourage members to take an active role in their health by regularly scheduling exams across service providers, during which chronic conditions and symptoms may be more easily identified. Such conditions can be exceedingly expensive and time-consuming to treat and manage, taking a toll on your members' health, morale, attendance and performance.

Early detection cuts costs overall by improving health outcomes and providing flexibility to explore treatment and symptom-management options that are right for both the patient's health and wallet.

Integrating care offerings has the added bonus of easing the board's administrative burden, especially if all benefits are offered through the same insurance carrier. Those managing the program need only to go through one enrollment process, sign and manage one contract and pay one bill. Integrated benefits streamline communication between the board and the insurance provider during the term of the contract.

Improving Health Outcomes

A 2016 Anthem study found that patient adherence to prescription drug treatments — a key driver in improving health outcomes — was 37 percent higher with an integrated health plan. Anthem also found a 10 percent lower hospitalization rate for those in an integrated plan, along with a 7 percent reduction in medical costs for those with diabetes. As evidenced by these findings, offering members a collection of benefits under one plan allows for a more holistic view of health that encourages them to take greater control of their well-being and improve overall outcomes.

If a board chooses to offer an integrated care plan through a specific health system, members have the advantage of allowing their health care data to flow securely between providers. So, caregivers can easily and effectively collaborate on treatment plans. This is especially true for integrated health options that provide coverage for exams with specialists who can detect underlying problems that might be missed by a primary provider.

Getting the Most Out of Integrated Care

It's important for the board to adopt strategies that ensure members capitalize on the integrated care plan. This can include wellness engagement, insurance-decision support tools, enrollment assistance for any HSA or FSA, prescription-drug cost-comparison tools and rewards for making good health decisions, like receiving an annual checkup. These efforts show that the board values its members and their health, and provides peace of mind for members who know they are being looked after.

Any strategy implemented by the board should include a significant communications plan, since effective two-way communication between members and the board is key to harnessing the power of integrated benefits. According to Kim Buckey, vice president of client services for DirectPath, organizations "[A]re seeking more diverse and effective health care solutions in an effort to control health care costs — but they won't be successful if they don't engage employees on how to maximize these choices via personalized education and price transparency."

Although it may be tempting to provide one-off benefits to members, integrated health services offer a variety of significant cost and health advantages for everyone involved.

Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.

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