While Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have long offered extra benefits, including dental, vision and hearing coverage, CMS released new guidance in April of this year that dramatically expanded the scope of supplemental benefits. Beginning coverage year 2019, plans for the first time can offer adult day care, alternative medicine, home aids and other services that address the social determinants of health.
Due to the late release of the Final Rule, many plans were unable to adjust their benefit packages for 2019; however, 40% were able to rapidly organize and offer at least one new benefit this year, according to a study by Avalere. Three first-movers to act on the potential are Anthem, Cigna-Healthspring and Humana. If you were unable to re-design your benefits for 2019, an understanding of how these providers adapted to the new flexibilities can be helpful in creative competitive packages for 2020.
Anthem was one of the first insurers to detail how exactly they plan to navigate the new MA frontier that CMS created. In October, they announced the expansion of their 2019 MA offerings across many of their affiliated health plans through a new benefits package branded as “Essential Extras” or “Everyday Extras,” depending on the affiliated health plan. Enrolled individuals can choose from one of the six new benefits detailed below:
- Food Delivery: Up to 64 deliveries per calendar year
- Transportation: Up to 60 one-way trips per year to health-related or other necessary appointments
- Alternative Medicine: Access to two dozen acupuncture or therapeutic massage visits per year
- Personal Home Helpers: Up to 124 hours annually of in-home health aide for respite care, home-based chores and assistance with activities of daily living
- Adult Day Care: Up to one visit per week
- Safety Devices: Up to $500 for devices or home modifications, including shower stools, reaching devices and temporary wheelchair ramps
Enrollees can switch to another benefit at any time during the plan year should they determine another to be more important to their health. Anthem may also decide to swap out some benefits in favor of others in the future. Essential Extras will be available in 2019 through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the company. Everyday Extras will be available next year through Amerigroup plans in Tennessee, Texas and New Jersey.
“From a growth and attracting new members standpoint, having something like this that is unique and better than what our competitors offer certainly is helpful,” said Chris Boles, regional vice president of Medicare at Anthem. “But it goes beyond that and gets into our commitment to developing products that really do help address the health and wellness of our members. If we don’t do that, there’s no reason for members to sign up with us and no reason for them to stay.”
On October 15th, Cigna announced 2019 plans with more comprehensive benefits and a new nationwide prescription drug plan. For the first time, the majority of Cigna customers will now have access to nutritious home-delivered meals at no extra cost for one week following an acute inpatient hospital stay. The meals incorporate individual dietary restrictions and are delivered frozen with preparation instructions. Meal delivery personnel also visually check the home environment to assess safety.
“We know lack of adequate nutrition can be challenging to someone trying to regain their strength following hospitalization,” said Brian Evanko, president of Cigna-HealthSpring. “Through this program, we hope to provide people with a stable environment in which to recover so they don’t have to return to the hospital.”
Additional benefits include transportation to medical appointments and pharmacies for customers in select plans and through a partnership with Lyft, a well-known ride sharing company. Since the introduction of the service in May, 92% of Cigna-HealthSpring customers using Lyft have made it their preferred transportation option and more than 14,500 transports have occurred.
Humana Inc. announced Medicare plans for 2019 with added convenience and a focus on the health and well-being of the entire person. Understanding that if you’re food insecure, you’re more likely to have chronic diseases, they added a benefit that will provide members with 40 meals from Meals on Wheels following a hospital discharge.
Other newly new benefits include in-home care support and unlimited transportation to access physicians and fitness centers. Additionally, in realizing that members who are socially isolated are more likely to be hospitalized, they added a loneliness visit where members can have a person talking with them during their meal deliveries. Last, Humana added a telepych benefit that offers virtual access to psychiatric doctors for those living in areas where access is limited.
“Humana believes the best way to care for our Medicare members is through care for the whole person,” said Alan Wheatley, president, Retail Segment at Humana. “Health goes beyond physical symptoms – it’s a state of general well-being that encompasses a healthy body and mind – and our 2019 plans and benefits reinforce our ongoing commitment to support the total care our members need, well beyond the doctor’s office.”
As plans look to create a bundle of benefits that are more appealing to each of their members, they shouldn’t be afraid to test and adjust accordingly as they gain insight into how beneficiaries respond to and access these new benefits. Critical to success though is ensuring your marketing and member engagement becomes just as competitive and personalized as your offerings. This means creating communications that personally engage members in the benefits of greatest interest to their individual health.
For help creating communications as personalized as your benefits, please call 203-731-3555 or email inquiries@cierant. Overseeing the Age-In marketing and member communication strategies of the nation’s leading health plans, we are expert in the automated creation and distribution of personalized payer communications.