Private health insurance stands on the precipice of an uncertain future.  With the creation of health insurance exchanges and the entry of as many as 15 million uninsured into the market, insurance companies will need to become more effective at consumer based marketing.  Clearly, cost will be a major factor, but if insurance companies are to avoid the trap of commoditization, they will need to find differentiators for their products.  One option is to focus on wellness programs as enhancements to their offerings.

Wellness programs can differentiate a plan’s offering, and can potentially lower the overall cost of care.  Yet, if an insurer can’t demonstrate the health impact of its program, the program’s costs may be reclassified as a marketing expense and have a major negative impact on the company’s Medical Loss Ratio (MLR).  To ensure that wellness programs serve as differentiators and continue to be considered benefits, rather than overhead, insurers will need strong data supporting the economic and clinical value of the program, and will have to be able to translate that data into appropriate messaging for employers, consumers, and regulators.

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