In a country where the growing number of people dealing with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, is threatening to reverse decades of improvement in life expectancy and blow up health spending, health insurers don’t appear to be taking the necessary steps to get their customers’ on a better path.
A survey by HealthMine finds more than half of those with chronic conditions hear from their insurer once a year or less regarding their disease.
Specifically, 26 percent of customers with chronic conditions say they are contacted once a year by their health plan about managing their disease.
Twenty-one percent say they are never contacted by their insurer.
Five percent say their insurer isn’t even aware they have a chronic condition.
Among the more privileged customers are the 35 percent who hear from their health plan between two and six times per year.
There is an even smaller minority of policyholders (14 percent) with chronic diseases who hear from their insurer once a month or more.
Furthermore, only a quarter say their health plan regularly sends them advice about managing their condition.
The main way that insurers, employers and policymakers have been trying to manage the rise in chronic conditions has been through encouraging and incentivizing the population at large to adopt lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, eating healthier and exercising more.
Wellness programs sponsored by insurers and employers have been central to efforts to lower health care costs by getting people to lose weight and avoid developing expensive conditions linked to obesity.
Some have argued, however, that broad-based wellness programs that encourage employees to adopt certain behaviors are less effective than programs that focus on those with the most to gain from lifestyle changes.
A RAND study last year examined a decade of corporate wellness programs and found that those centered on disease management delivered far greater return on investment than those aimed at lifestyle changes.