Helps Benefits Managers Educate Employees about Consumer-Directed Health Plans

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn., Nov 14, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Optum(TM) is offering benefits managers at companies of all sizes free online resources designed to help educate their employees about consumer-directed health plans and tax-advantaged health care accounts.

The resources, available at, provide benefit managers free tools that can be incorporated into their existing open enrollment and health plan education programs to help employees determine if a consumer-directed health plan and a tax-advantaged health care account is the right option for their health care needs. These tools can be used in employee meetings, on company websites, in mailings to employees or posted in the workplace.

An increasing number of employers are offering consumer-directed health plans with a tax-advantaged health care account. The number of people covered by health savings account/high-deductible health plans (HSA/HDHPs) totaled 11.4 million in January 2011, an increase of 14 percent since 2010, according to a survey of U.S. health insurance carriers conducted by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

“Using a tax-advantaged health account is new for many people. We want to help them understand how consumer-directed health plans work so they can make smart choices at enrollment time and thereafter,” said Heidi Sirota, vice president of marketing for OptumHealth Financial Services(SM). “ gives employers a set of easy-to-use tools to share with their employees so they can decide on the best plan for their situations.”

Key resources on include:

— “Two-Minute Answers” videos that introduce the basics of HSAs;

— brief, interactive presentations employees can rewind, pause, and skip ahead to learn about tax-advantaged health accounts;

— live and prerecorded webinars with experts in health accounts;

— brochures and flyers to share in person or online with employees; and

— simple math examples that illustrate the tax savings of a flexible spending account (FSA) and HSA.

OptumHealth’s financial services business manages more than 2.3 million consumer-directed health care accounts and more than $1.3 billion in HSAs and related investment assets at its OptumHealth Bank(SM), Member FDIC. The financial services business also reduces waste and inefficiency in health care by electronically transmitting about $4 billion in payments every month from health plans to nearly 700,000 doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.

About Optum:

Optum is an information and technology-enabled health services company serving the broad health care marketplace, including care providers, plan sponsors, life sciences companies and consumers. Its business units — OptumInsight(TM), OptumHealth(R) and OptumRx(TM) — employ more than 30,000 people worldwide. Visit or for more information.

SOURCE: OptumHealth


2012 Forecast: Five Top Trends in Workplace Benefits

COLUMBIA, S.C., Nov. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — After several years of economic woes and health care reform wrangling, the only certainty in the future of workplace benefits may be continued uncertainty. But employers, human resources professionals and insurance brokers who want to be prepared for 2012 should pay attention to several emerging trends. Here are the top five predictions for the coming year, according to experts at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, one of the nation’s leading employee benefit providers:

1. Products: Critical illness insurance will continue to attract new customers.
With the costs of treating cancer, heart attacks and strokes far exceeding most employees’ major medical coverage, critical illness insurance can provide vital out-of-pocket protection to help with both the medical and nonmedical costs associated with treating and recovering from these diseases. Updated versions of this relatively new product include benefits for multiple occurrences of a critical illness, adding to their value. “One way to think of critical illness insurance is as ‘living life insurance,'” says Randy Finn, assistant vice president of supplemental health products at Colonial Life, where critical illness sales increased 24 percent from 2009 to 2010. “If you get a serious illness such as cancer and die, life insurance helps with that. But what if you survive? You’re likely to have years of financially crippling bills to pay.”

2. Sales: Voluntary insurance sales will rebound strongly.
Increasing workforce diversity and the need to offer choices to employees with widely varying needs will drive an uptick in sales. Group products will continue to grow as a percentage of voluntary sales, while life insurance sales continue to fall. “There’s a big need for better education of workers about the need to protect their most valuable assets with life and disability coverage,” points out Jeff Koll, Colonial Life’s assistant vice president of life and disability products.

3. Services: Wellness programs will become more prevalent as a way for employers to control health care costs and increase productivity and retention.
With no let-up in sight for rising health care costs, employers are increasingly seeing the value of workplace wellness programs as a way to control premium increases and claims costs. Ranging from health screening tools to online nurse services, wellness-related offerings will become a bigger part of benefits providers’ value-added services.

However, the key to seeing a true bottom-line benefit may be as much about employee awareness and engagement as it is about the actual service. “Good communication about wellness programs is essential for them to be effective,” says Steve Bygott, Colonial Life’s assistant vice president of marketing analysis and programs. “Without a focused effort to ensure employees understand the program and its value to them, participation tends to be low.”

4. Technology: Employees will have more options for decision-support tools using online technology.
As employers continue to push benefits decision-making responsibility to their employees, look for a proliferation of websites and interactive tools to help them understand different types of coverage and which ones meet their unique needs. An example is Colonial Life’s Benefits Learning Center website (, launched last May featuring Youville(SM), an entertaining interactive tool for workers to individualize their benefits education and explore their unique benefits needs.

Research shows most employees don’t actively search for information about their benefits, don’t want frequent communication from their employers about them, and don’t dedicate a significant amount of time to learning more about them.(1) Online decision-support tools such as Youville(SM) offer employees important benefits information with minimal effort, says Dana Bagwell, Colonial Life’s director of benefits communication and education. “These tools give employees easy access to the information they need to make informed benefits decisions, all in one place.”

5. Economy: Government sector employers will focus on cost containment measures for their benefits plans.
Government employers are strongly feeling the effects of several years of reduced tax revenues, and now find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being forced to reduce benefits or raise their employees’ share of the costs. A recent survey of public sector human resources managers showed 80 percent of them are looking at ways to reduce the cost of their employee benefits plans, and 58 percent said controlling costs is their top priority for their benefits programs.(2)

“The good news is there’s a huge opportunity for government employers to control costs by changing their benefits plan design,” says Pat McCullough, Colonial Life’s public sector practice leader. “Government employers have been slower than other industry segments to shift away from the more comprehensive, paternalistic benefits models of the past, but there are solutions to help them offer strong packages and still save money.”
Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company is a market leader in providing insurance benefits for employees and their families through the workplace, along with individual benefits education, advanced yet simple-to-use enrollment technology and quality personal service. Colonial Life offers disability, life and supplemental accident and health insurance policies in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Similar policies, if approved, are underwritten in New York by a Colonial Life affiliate, The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company, Worcester, Mass. Colonial Life is based in Columbia, S.C., and is a subsidiary of Unum Group, one of the world’s leading providers of employee benefits.

For more information, call Colonial Life at (803) 798-7000 or visit

SOURCE Colonial Life

Independence Blue Cross Presents Next-gen Mobile Insurer Apps At Insurance & Tech Executive Summit

PHILADELPHIA, Nov 7, 2011 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) — Independence Blue Cross announced that its director of e-Business, Michael B. Yetter, will speak today about mobile app marketing strategies in health care with other industry leaders at the Insurance & Technology Annual Executive Summit held in Carefree, Arizona.

“As we look into 2012 and beyond, there are technologies and concepts that play a significant role in shaping development of next-gen apps for our health plan members, including Mobile Health, which is better known as mHealth,” said Yetter. “‘Gamification’ is a growing trend in the mobile app industry, which is applying game design concepts and principles to mobile apps to further strengthen our member engagement. People like to be entertained, to compete, and to be rewarded. The more these principles are applied to mobile apps, the deeper the engagement with the consumer. IBC is exploring cutting edge ways to ‘gamify’ mobile app strategies already in place, and we will soon be piloting a new wellness engagement and competition program that we hope to offer more broadly next year.”

Another hot topic as the health care industry shifts toward more individual coverage is mobile payment systems, and Yetter will discuss next-gen ideas for individuals to pay their health plan bills with their phones.

“IBC made a strong entry into the mobile app space during 2011 and we plan to continue to innovate for our customers and members, using the latest technologies to provide the time-saving features and convenience that their lives demand,” Yetter added.

Yetter will discuss the mobile platform race between Apple iOS, Google Android, Blackberry, and Windows in phone devices and tablets. He will share his insights that, while some platforms may lose market share, there is no single winner currently emerging, and developers will continue to face complexity in building apps for several health care industry platforms.

The Insurance & Technology Executive Summit is an invitation-only event for senior-level insurance company executives. The conference presents relevant content, authoritative speakers, and networking opportunities for sponsors. The event is comprised of conference sessions, vendor meetings, and networking-focused social activities.

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.1 million people. For 73 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross’s HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.


Highmark’s Pay-For-Performance Program Saved Lives and Health Care Dollars in 2010-2011

Nov. 3, 2011 | Pittsburgh, Pa. — Highmark’s latest data on its Quality BLUE pay-for-performance programs demonstrates that participating hospitals and physicians consistently take better care of Highmark members than health care providers that are not part of the program.

“Whether you look at infection rates, screening for various diseases or electronic prescribing rates, Highmark members are getting better care from providers that are part of the Quality BLUE program,” said Linda Weiland, vice president of provider network innovations and partnerships. “We see very clear patterns of improved patient safety and clinical care for our members.”

Highmark today released its annual Quality BLUE report which provides data from fiscal year 2011 on both the hospital and physicians pay-for-performance programs. Some of the major findings include the following:

  • Well-child visits in the first 15 months of life exceeded the national average by 15 percent and well-child visits for children, ages 3 -6, exceeded the national average by 13 percent.
  • Seventy-six percent of female members age 42 to 69 received mammography screening for breast cancer from Highmark providers in the past two years. This is a full nine percent higher than the national average.
  • Seventy-two percent of office-based physicians in Quality BLUE use electronic prescribing compared to only 36 percent nationally. Electronic prescribing improves patient safety and reduces errors. It also improves efficiency and cost savings.
  • An estimated 351 cases of MRSA with a care cost savings estimated between $9.5 million – $12.2 million were eliminated during the past four years. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant organism, which can cause potentially life-threatening bloodstream and surgical site infections in hospitals and community settings. Through the Quality BLUE hospital program, hospitals provide MRSA education to patients and family members.
  • An estimated 1,535 central line associated bloodstream infections (CLAB) with care costs savings of $11.2 million to $44.8 million were eliminated in all nursing units, not just intensive care units, during the last five years, saving potentially 184-384 lives. A central line is a catheter inserted into a large vein close to the heart to monitor blood circulation, provide nourishment and administer fluids and medication. While these catheters are life sustaining, they put patients at risk for infection.


The Highmark Quality BLUE hospital pay-for-performance program began in fiscal year 2002 with six hospitals. By fiscal year 2011, program participation grew to 63 hospitals and today includes 81 hospitals.

Highmark’s Quality BLUE physician program is offered in 49 counties in Western and Central Pennsylvania, with approximately 6,300 PCPs in more than 1,600 practices, providing services to more than 1.7 million Highmark members. Sixty-six percent of all primary care practices participate in the Quality BLUE program.

“During the past decade we know this program has greatly improved patient safety and saved millions of dollars,” said Weiland. “At Highmark we continue to push for paying for quality in health care and not just paying for services.”

About Highmark
Highmark Inc., based in Pittsburgh, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. Highmark serves 4.8 million members in Pennsylvania and West Virginia through the company’s health care benefits business and is one of the largest Blue plans in the nation. Highmark has 19,500 employees across the country. For more than 70 years, Highmark’s commitment to the community has consistently been among the company’s highest priorities as it strives to positively impact the places where members call home. For more information, visit

Highmark Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit


Independence Blue Cross Launches New Lower-Cost, High-Value Individual Health Plans

Philadelphia, PA – November 1, 2011Independence Blue Cross (IBC) announced the introduction of two new progressively designed health plans for individuals and families that offer coverage beginning this fall on November 15. New members in southeastern Pennsylvania may now select from a broadened suite of 13 different medically underwritten health plans from IBC, which provides the most preferred health plans in the region, according to a 2011 research study.

“Consumers are asking for more choice, increased flexibility, and greater affordability in their health plans, and they want incentives that encourage proactive steps to stay well,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, IBC’s president and CEO. “We’re offering health plans that respond directly to these needs and we’re offering even lower rates than ever before.  We’re pleased that our new, lower cost options will bring health insurance within reach for more people.”

“We’ve developed a wide array of individual health plan that balance cost-consciousness with the health services consumers most often use,” said Brett Mayfield, vice president of sales for IBC.  Mayfield said the new health plans will be available for sale through brokers and direct from IBC through with coverage beginning November 15, 2011:

  • The Personal Choice® PPO 8000 Deductible plan. Designed for consumers who are generally healthy and want low monthly premiums and low out-of-pocket costs when they see their primary care physicians for check-ups.
  • The Keystone Health Plan East HMO 30 Copay plan. Designed for consumers who are looking for predictable costs for health care services with manageable monthly premiums.

“Brokers who sell IBC health plans will now have even more competitively priced products to offer their customers,” said Mayfield. “Our new Personal Choice® PPO can cost younger individuals as little as $68 per month, the lowest monthly premium for individual coverage we’ve offered.”

“I’ve been marketing individual health plans for about 30 years, and when it comes to delivering quality products, IBC is in a league of its own,” said Sal DiNardo, principal and founder of Custom Benefit Plans, Inc., based in Willow Grove, PA. “Our Individual and self-employed consumers now get to enjoy access to the same level of benefits and services that IBC has historically offered small and larger group markets. IBC continually develops new products that help enhance our ability to accommodate every need and budget, and our customers simply trust the brand. The new PPO plan will be very appealing to young, healthy folks who want to know they’ve got coverage if they need it, but don’t have to pay a high monthly premium for that peace of mind.”

IBC’s market research shows that IBC’s brand loyalty is significantly higher among individual members in the region versus its leading competitor (63 percent versus 47 percent). IBC understands that people’s priorities change as life circumstances shift, which guides decisions about what health care coverage an individual needs, Mayfield noted. IBC’s suite of individual health plans provides varying levels of cost and coverage, allowing individual customers to choose the option that best meets their unique needs.

All of IBC’s individual plans emphasize the use of generic prescription drugs, which helps to lower the cost of health care. IBC encourages the use of lower cost generic substitutes, when available, because generics are therapeutically equivalent to their more expensive brand-name counterparts and save money for health care consumers and in the health care system overall.

IBC’s suite of individual products also offers a wide range of health care services and the popular Healthy LifestylesSM incentive programs that reimburse members $150 per year for fitness club fees, $200 for approved smoking cessation programs, and $200 for approved weight loss programs – features that help members strive for optimal wellness, making the most of their health benefits.

IBC’s individual plans also offer coverage for preventive care,  x-ray and laboratory services, 24/7 access to a Health Coach, and prescription drug benefits including a money-saving mail order option. Health Coaches provide support for everyday or more serious health concerns and can provide education when consumers are facing medical decisions or deciding among treatment options.

About Independence Blue Cross
Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.1 million people. For 73 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross’s HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. More information about Independence Blue Cross is available at