Health insurance isn’t only about basic coverage. From 24-hour nurse hotlines to medical coaching, the nation’s insurers may offer more perks than consumers realize.
“Health insurers are your partner in health care,” says Christine Leyden, vice president and general manager of the client services division at URAC, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that promotes health-care quality. “Insurers can be a resource for the consumers.”
Whether it’s a large-scale national insurer or a regional health insurance company, consumers can get a lot of perks, many of which come at no additional costs under a plan, if they know to look for them.
Keith Mendonsa, consumer specialist for eHealthInsurance.com, lists anurse hotline, a free and very helpful perk that consumers often underutilize. Germs don’t adhere to typical work hours causing people to come down with an illness on the weekend or after the doctor’s office is closed. But not all is lost: Most insurance companies provide their users a 24-hour hotline that offers medical tips and advice. “Instead of rushing someone to the emergency room and paying $1,200 you can call the hotline and wait to the morning to see a doctor,” says Mendonsa.
Aegis Administrative Services, a Chicago insurer offers a program called Teleadoc, which is similar to a nurse hotline, but it is manned by a licensed physician. According to Sam Cozzo, a director at Aegis Administrative Services, the program’s cost varies by plan tyes. He says Teleadoc could be a valuable way to save time and money from avoiding an office visit for a minor problem.
In addition to offering a 24-hour hotline, a majority of insurers offer programs for stress, weight loss and smoking cessation, says Mendonsa at eHealthInsurance.com, noting that most insurers require a co-pay to attend these sorts of meetings. “Health companies are stressing preventive care,” she says. “Preventive care promotes healthiness, which means less medical bills in the future. It’s a win win for both parties.”
According to Leyden at URAC, insurers are also offering pharmacy benefits management programs geared toward consumers that take multiple medications. Under these plans, a patient’s medicine is reviewed to find alternative options or to ensure they aren’t taking unnecessary medicines. Insurers also offer case managers for patients that are very ill or have a trauma to help the family, says Leyden.