My affinity health care plan

I’m fairly certain that one of the issues President-elect Obama will tackle during his tenure in the White House will be health care. It was a centerpiece of his campaigning, an issue that swayed voters whose main concern was health care towards him, and it’s a very disjointed system.

So why don’t insurers and underwriters – the companies big and small and the individuals involved – work towards something better? If capitalism and competition can cure all ills (pun intended) why do we see so little innovation within health care and so much new thinking about therapies, drugs and procedures.

It just doesn’t seem like the business side of health care is moving at the same pace as the technologies to affect such care.

That’s why I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest a proactive approach that any HMO, PPO, Hospital, Doctor or Nurse can take to the bank: a loyalty/affinity program.

I know it sounds strange, but hear me out. Consumer goods and services companies have been all over this trend for the past 20 years, so why not graft some of the same critical thinking and business acumen – if not the exact implementation – on to health care.

Let’s use Starbucks as an example:

  1. If you’re Starbucks, you want people to drink more coffee, so you start selling gift cards and then you move on (recently) to a new type of affinity card intended (as I understand it) for your highest users, your brand evangelists, your top 1% of 1%.
  2. You give them discounts, sure, but you also give them access to cool, exclusive products and services that only they can enjoy. You make it feel exclusive. Membership has its rewards.
  3. On top of all the pampering you give them gifts that are meant, in the parlance of Seinfeld, to be gifted or re-gifted. You invite these people to widen your circle of influence by helping you find like-minded consumers who may not love Starbucks right now, but could be swayed through word-of-mouth or incentivized to Drink. More. Coffee.

All standard-issue business school stuff, right. It’s a loss-leader, but what you lose in incremental revenue via the discounts you gain back in increased consumption and broadened influence. In my TV background, we’d say this is a use of a Low Reach/High Frequency marketing message.

Or something like that.

Anyhow, what does this have to do with health care? Glad you asked.

Sick people cost more to insure and more to care for than do healthy people. I’m way over-generalizing, but I think you get my point.

So what should we do about people getting sick? We all get colds or have accidents or, loathe though I am to admit it, AGE!

I’m proposing that someone, everyone – maybe Kaiser Permanente or United Healthcare – start issuing a “frequently healthy” card and reward people who take all those preventive steps that we all love imagining for ourselves but so rarely do.

I’m talking:

  • A discount/reduced co-pay for well visits if you bring in an Honor Roll slip from your Gym/Athletic Club that says you worked out 15 (or more) out of 30 days in the month.
  • Prescription drug or over-the-counter coupons if you get a Flu shot at the start of Fall/Winter.
  • Access to specialist like Nutritionist and Stress or Work/Life classes and coaches if you maintain a certain BMI or you lower your body age through V02 monitoring or body composition.

Look, I’m no expert here and I surely get great health coverage (though costs are rising) from my employer, but it strikes me as odd that Kaiser will go to all that trouble to get Allison Janey to say “Live Well” and “Thrive” for their ads, but that no one has thought about putting together a solid “healthy person retention” program.

Or maybe I’m wrong and all kinds of these things exist. But I don’t think I am.

I think that if insurers really cared about optimizing their business, they’d realize they need to help people optimize themselves. Healthy people with healthy habits tend to stay healthier.

I’m going to be anti-blogger and not even attempt to link to any facts or figures because I’m both too lazy and too in-love with my own idea.

What say you? Am I way off base or have I stumbled upon something?

Also, is the system – and I’m including both for-profit companies and their access to government-funded initiatives such as Medicare and Medicaid (which I’m not so up-to-speed on, but my mother-in-law the Hospice Nurse is) – too complex to allow for such a simple idea? That is, are insurers actually better served by healthier people or do they enjoy charging more and making more money from progressively sicker and sicker people.

Who knows. Maybe this entire post is a boondoggle.

Let me have it.

2 thoughts on “My affinity health care plan

  1. i think it’s a great idea. in some ways those of us who are on high-deductible plans with a health-savings account are already enjoying this.

    since i “self-insure” my deductible and annual max by making contributions directly to my hsa, if i don’t get sick or injured during the year, that money becomes mine to keep and roll-over to the next year. at 65 if i have lived a nice healthy life, i get to keep whatever is in there.

    i love my hsa. i really hope it doesn’t go away in the next few years…..

  2. Lisa says:

    Brilliant idea to say the least! Although I’m sure somewhere this would be violating some law somewhere. I agree though that people that take the preventive measures should have the liberty to enjoy some type of discount. Hopefully Kaiser listens to this idea, I’m all for it!

Leave a Reply