Does Your Health Plan Offer These Wellness Perks?


Debra Gordon

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A Guide to Out of Pocket Medical Costs

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Today's health plans are about more than just paying your claims when you're sick. They're about keeping you healthy to begin with. Just consider some of the perks that many plans offer today.

  • 24/7 nurse hotlines. These confidential hotlines, staffed by registered nurses, can provide a link between your symptoms and the care you need. For instance, if your child has a 103-degree fever, the nurse can determine with just a few questions whether you should wait to see the doctor when the office opens or take your child to an urgent care center or emergency room. Studies find that these hotlines can reduce emergency room use as well as doctor visits (do you really need to see your doctor for your child's cold?), saving you money in the process.

  • Exercise programs. One of the oldest and most well-known of these programs is the SilverSneakers Fitness program for Medicare recipients. It provides basic fitness memberships at gyms around the country, an adviser at each location to introduce members to the program, an online portal to track workouts and health progress, and educational health seminars. More than 65 Medicare Advantage plans participate.

  • Fitness trackers. Health insurers are offering employers incentives to encourage their employees to use fitness trackers, such as Fitbit and Jawbone. Some health insurers are even handing out the devices themselves. Cigna, for instance, distributed 1,600 free BodyMedia armbands, which track calories and sleep, to members with diabetes or at high risk of diabetes. The goal is to help prevent the disease or its complications with personalized coaching based on the data the armbands provide.

  • Personalized health assessments. These online assessments walk you through a comprehensive list of questions about your health. But they don't stop there. The next step is providing you with education about your health risks, support to improve your health, and even one-on-one coaching with a trained health coach. Some insurers offer financial incentives for completing the assessments.

  • Discounts. These include savings on fitness centers, nutritional counseling, personal training, acupuncture, massage therapy, spirituality centers, and even certain "health products," such as bicycles and organic food.

  • Nutritional advice and support. One health plan offers a social network program with healthy shopping lists, recipes, and coupons to be shared among plan members, complete with nutritional information for more than 100,000 foods.

  • Telehealth services. One health insurer is offering telehealth services to its members, enabling them to receive diagnosis and, in some instances, treatment via online medical consultations with their own doctors or through a national network of providers.

If your health insurer doesn’t offer the kind of "extras" you'd like, talk with the benefits coordinator in your human resources department.

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Medical References

  1. Cigna Study: Can a Mobile App Help Prevent Diabetes? Cigna. January 23, 2013. (
  2. Light PA, Hupcey JE, Clark MB. Nursing telephone triage and its influence on parents’ choice of care for febrile children. J Pediatr Nurs. 2005 Dec;20(6):424-9. (
  3. Reinius P, Johansson M, Fjellner A, et al. A telephone-based case-management intervention reduces healthcare utilization for frequent emergency department visitors. Eur J Emerg Med. 2013 Oct;20(5):327-34. (
  4. Clinical Programs – Weight Management. Tufts Health Plan. (
  5. Easy Choice Offers ASH Healthyroads® Prevention and Wellness Programs. Easy Choice Health Plan of New York. (
  6. Wellness Programs. Aetna. (;
  7. Take Your Blue Health Assessment. Blue Cross Blue Shield. (
  8. Healthy Discounts Program. HealthPartners. (
  9. Health Trackers. Premera Blue Cross. (
  10. Nutrition-Focused Social Platform Provides Healthy Food Guidance and Cost Savings. Premera Blue Cross. (
  11. Premera Blue Cross Offers Virtual Care Services to Its Members. Premera Blue Cross. (https