5 ways health plans address health equity

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MedCity News

People often confuse health equity with health equality, but it is important that healthcare professionals understand the difference. Health equality essentially means giving everyone the same, while health equality means giving people what they need to get the best possible outcome.

This, of course, is an important difference as the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) often dictate the needs of health consumers, especially in the Medicare and Medicaid populations. Healthcare equity inequalities manifests itself in different ways depending on a person’s individual circumstances, but the good news for both plans and their members is that one health plan can help in many ways.

Here are five things Medicare and Medicaid plans are already doing to improve health equity:

Communicate with members through their preferred methods and channels
A unified approach to contacting is not only out of date, it has also proven ineffective. Savvy health plans use data science and behavioral science to create a more personalized experience that is more likely to resonate and drive members to take action on their health. We all have preferences about how we want to be reached – some prefer email, others prefer text messages, and still others prefer things like phone calls – and knowing what each member prefers goes a long way towards making members feel like they are listening to them is respected and understood.

Broadband Internet access is included as a plan to close the digital divide
A lack of broadband internet access among vulnerable populations is a major contributor to the digital divide. While there was a noticeable increase in telemedicine use at the height of Covid-19, broadband coverage only increased by around 10%. The challenge is that it’s not just about basic access – the digital divide also includes low digital literacy, the inability to afford the necessary equipment, and limited phone data access. This gives health insurers the ability to offer their members free or inexpensive broadband as a benefit to help offset these inequalities. In addition, plans can be invested in programs to improve member digital literacy, creating an opportunity to educate members about access to the programs, benefits and services available to them. Ultimately, it’s relatively simple: Members who have full high-speed Internet access and are educated about its use are more likely to take action that will improve their health.

Providing meal sets for low-income families to address both food shortages and access to healthy food
According to a Harris Poll, nearly 44% of Medicaid members either do not have access to the food assistance programs they need through their plan or are unsure whether they do. This provides a unique opportunity for plans to offer members free or low-cost healthy meal packages. This translates into a number of benefits, the most obvious of which is to offer members healthy meals that they need but may not otherwise be able to find or afford. It also creates trust and satisfaction among members because it shows that the health plan is looking for their best interest by providing benefits with real value and meaning.

Educating members on the importance of basics like annual spa visits and flu shots to improve results across the board
The hard truth is that only 16% of Medicare beneficiaries see a doctor for an annual spa visit each year, while a whopping 27% of Americans haven’t seen a doctor at all in the past year. But the importance of these visits cannot be emphasized enough – those who receive an annual wellness visit receive 62% more screenings for chronic diseases than those who don’t, which goes a long way towards keeping members healthy. Part of the planning job is to convey this meaning to members – in their preferred channels, as mentioned, but also in simple but informative language that highlights the benefits of such visits, as well as the risks of skipping those visits , makes it clear.

Providing valuable rewards and incentives to members who address immediate needs and encourage them to take action on their health
Offering rewards and incentives for members to take healthy action should be viewed as an up-front, low-risk investment that preserves members’ health and reduces the overall cost of care. Case in point – some plans offer members up to $ 200 for full Covid-19 vaccination, and offer Medicaid and Medicare members who need a free ride to a vaccination appointment. Even if it sounds like a big investment, it far beats the alternative; The cost of treating unvaccinated patients in hospitals was $ 3.7 billion in August, more than twice in June and July combined.

Health equity is a major issue in the US and it won’t go away overnight. Inequalities in access to care not only pose problems for the individual, but also place an additional burden on the health system as a whole. Medicare and Medicaid plans that invest in effectively solving these health equity issues can create a win-win situation that improves both member satisfaction and retention – ultimately aiding benefit planning – and most importantly, their members Provides the health services they need.

Photo: PeterPencil, Getty Images

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