Access to Affordable Health Insurance
A recent program in California is proving that providing lower cost health plans can benefit both consumers and insurance companies. The program called Healthy Families is a pilot “Wellness Program” designed to lower costs of health insurance and healthcare through education and preventive medicine programs, and it seems to be working.
Insurance companies, who have often been demonized in the debate over affordable healthcare insurance, are receiving a bit of a facelift as part of the program. One mother was thrilled that under the program she only had to pay five dollars for pediatric care visits for her children. But she was even more surprised and enthusiastic about the free coloring books and other kid friendly educational materials the insurance company has been sending her. She was even more surprised when her health insurer CalOptima paid for a night out at a local amusement park. The company which provides California health insurance options to families of limited means, normally pays for such preventive care as immunizations, wellness check-ups and educational programs such as obesity prevention, but it has recently started paying for parties.
A spokesman for the company said holding events like this is money well spent. By rewarding good health practices, and keeping health education fun, we encourage families to stay healthy and stay in the programs, and that reduces costs for everyone. Studies of children enrolled in the Healthy Families Program have shown that not only does the health of these children improve; they do better in school, and their families overall healthcare costs go down.
"By providing insurance to these kids, you're able to keep them healthy," said Dr. Greg Buchert, chief operating officer for CalOptima. "It really is an investment in the future."
As in other states with similar programs Healthy Families is targeted at working families who do not qualify for Medicaid, but do not earn enough to afford most individual health insurance policies. The program is representative of these types of affordable healthcare plans springing up nationwide that show that coalitions formed between insurance companies and the government can work to bring affordable health insurance to working families. The plan is subsidized by the government yet it operates much like a traditional commercial health plan. Private insurers, ranging from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California to Kaiser Permanente, offer Healthy Families plans and compete for their business.
Under the program families have to pay small co-pays and monthly premiums that can amount to $4 to $15 per child, but those who have enrolled feel it is well worth it. Moms love that their kids are covered and staying healthy, and kids like the video games and cotton candy that sometime come with it.