February 9, 2015

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Article

UB Voices by UnitedHealthcare

The Importance of Providing Tools to Help Utah Consumers Make Smarter Health Care Decisions

Pam Gold, Vice President, Sales and Account Management | UnitedHealthcare

February 9, 2015

We can be proud in the United States that we offer some of the best health care in the world. But, the latest numbers from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development indicated that more is spent per consumer here than in any other country. The 2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reported that average annual health insurance premiums for family coverage in 2013 for employer-sponsored health benefits totaled an astonishing $16,351. That is a hefty sum for both employers and their employees, no matter how it’s shared.

The good news is people in Utah are among the healthiest in the nation. America’s Health Rankings 2014, from the United Health Foundation®, Utah ranked 5 among the 50 states. Nevertheless, the rising cost of health care is a significant and worrisome expense. In these highly competitive and challenging times, businesses must work closely with their benefits provider to get these costs under control and find ways to reverse the trend.

Increasingly, there’s evidence that consumer behavior is a significant factor in health care costs.


You can be sure that your employees want to reduce health care costs, too; they just don’t know where to start. And that’s an area that you can impact, when you connect with the right health benefits company.

Your health benefits company should have the tools and resources that show a commitment to helping educate the consumer in controlling health care costs. Programs and tools that increase transparency throughout the health care continuum help your employees understand costs and medical procedures, so they can make more-informed decisions about the quality and cost of their care. Your health insurer should offer:

  • An estimating tool that provides estimated costs and quality rating information about local providers for many medical services based on the member’s location and benefit plan. This tool should be available from a smartphone.
  • A mobile application that provides consumers with instant access to their health care information. Whether they want to find the nearest physician, check the status of a claim or speak directly with a health care professional, they should have an on-the-go resource.
  • An online management tool to help consumers understand their health care benefits, showing what the plan paid for a benefit, what the member owes for that benefit, and why that amount is owed.
  • A journal application to log and track important health information such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI), set reminders for appointments, or create checklists of questions to ask doctors.

Wellness programs are proving their value in cost reduction.

A study* on costs and savings associated with workplace disease prevention and wellness programs found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.

Find a health insurer that offers a wellness program with a dedicated team who will work with you to implement a culture of wellness and engage your employees in healthier behaviors. Depending on the strategies you choose, the program could include an online wellness program, customizable newsletters and other communications – there should be many options available so you can customize the program for your business. The goal of a wellness program is to help improve the health of your employee population so significantly that you will see measurable cost-savings.

Your business is contributing to the growth and success of the thriving Utah community. Ultimately, your health benefits company should provide you with tools and resources that will help your employees better manage their health care and, in so doing, help put health care costs on a downward trajectory, to everyone’s benefit.

UnitedHealthcare offers a full spectrum of health benefit programs to more than 45 million people nationwide. It  is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH). For more information, visit uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.

*An Employer’s Guide to Cancer Treatment & Prevention. Supporting Document. Health Improvement Programs. 2012.. National Business Group on Health and National Comprehensive Cancer Network. www.businessgrouphealth.org

Pam Gold has more than 30 years of experience in health and wellness benefits and was recently honored as one of the “30 Women to Watch” in Utah. She is located at the UnitedHealthcare office in Salt Lake City. You can reach her directly at pam_gold@uhc.com or (801) 982-4520.

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