If someone knows they are at risk for a certain disease orchronic condition, there’s a greater likelihoodthat they’ll change their eating habits, quit smoking andget off the couch. Health plans also like that because it reduces treatment costs in the long run, somany are pushing preventative health measures and testing to nipissues in the bud.

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But apparently, not enough health plans are taking the next –and arguably – most important step: communicating to plan membersthat their health could deteriorate if they don’t act now,according to the HealthMine 2018 Rising Risk Survey. Maybe health plans discusspreventative health on their blogs and put posters on doctors’office walls, but most aren’t directly telling members about theirindividual risks – at least that’s how the members perceive it.

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HealthMine’s survey was fielded by Research Now SS, whichqueried 500 full-time U.S. employees age 26-64 who are enrolled ina healthcare plan sponsored by their employers. A majority (75percent) of respondents say they believe their health plan hasnever alerted them to a health risk.

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This underscores the challenges health plans face when educatingmembers about potential health risks and motivating them to takeaction to prevent becoming ill, says Bryce Williams, president andCEO of HealthMine.

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“When a person is identified as having a health risk, it doesn'tmean they will definitely get sick,” Williams says. “However, it'swell known that 86 percent of the nation's $2.7 trillion in annualhealth care costs are for people with chronic conditions. Inaddition, at any moment in time, about 20 percent of any definedpopulation are likely to have multiple risk factors that can pushthem into the high-cost category if the risks are notaddressed.”

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While individuals are at the mercy of certain health riskfactors -- age, family history and genetics – they are in charge ofwhat they eat, the amount of physical activity they do, how muchsleep they get, moderating their alcohol consumption and quittingsmoking, he says. Health plans should be on the forefront of thatby proactively communicating with every member about their personalhealth risks before problems get worse.

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“Despite the challenges they face, health plans can play a keyrole in improving members’ health outcomes while lowering healthcare costs by helping plan members make sense of their health risksand take action to prevent getting ill,” Williams says.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.