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Insurers can’t lose focus on what’s really important

October 13, 2018

With the debate surrounding health care more politically contentious than ever, and the landscape of the industry quickly changing, it’s important not to lose sight of what’s most important: the well-being of Americans. That’s what led to my visit this summer with the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, where leaders took time to look into the future and discuss ways to deliver more value to consumers.

During the meeting, I reflected on the unique position of health insurance providers. After all, the industry is well placed to introduce new ways to increase the quality of care that patients receive, while also lowering the amount that they pay for that care. Insurance providers coordinate care for patients, invest in communities so that people stay healthier longer, and undertake countless other initiatives that address patients’ needs in a holistic, efficient way. We shouldn’t lose sight of the important role that insurance providers are playing in Minnesota and across the United States in bringing peace of mind to hundreds of millions of Americans.

For example, we now know that external factors such as where we grow, live, work, play and age play a huge role in our overall health. Insurance providers call those factors the social determinants of health, which simply means applying what they know about their communities to reduce barriers to quality health care.

As part of its work to address social determinants of health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has donated $1 million in grants to 13 organizations that work to improve community health and advance health equity in the state through their BCBSM Healthier Communities program. Local organizations have used these funds to improve community safety, education, employment, and family and social support — all social determinants of health that might not be addressed in a hospital.

Or take HealthPartners’ Frequent Fitness and Healthy Discounts program, which make it easier and more affordable for Minnesotans to lead healthier lives. Healthy Discounts provide patients with savings on fitness classes and exercise equipment, as well as at health food stores and on healthy meal delivery. It’s a program that makes eating healthy easier and more affordable for everyone, especially those with special dietary needs, and it’s a great way to support Minnesota’s local businesses.

Health insurance providers are making these investments because they have the same goal as patients — keep Americans healthy and keep health care costs low. Because most of your health-care dollar is spent on prescription drugs or medical care, bringing down the cost of that care will bring down your premiums and out of pocket costs. And that makes your coverage even more valuable for you.

It’s simple: When patients do better, we all do better. By investing in their communities, health insurance providers are able to reduce illnesses and chronic health conditions. By encouraging a proactive and holistic approach to health and wellness, we help people get healthier faster and stay healthier longer, so they don’t have to undergo medical treatments for avoidable medical conditions. By encouraging preventive care, we can improve your quality of life while keeping your costs down.

This is what I heard from Minnesota’s insurance providers, and it’s a common theme I hear as I travel around the country. Health insurance providers are committed to the well-being of communities. Health insurance providers will continue working with everyone to make sure people have affordable, comprehensive coverage. That they receive high-quality care. And that families have what we all want our insurance coverage to deliver: peace of mind.

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