Summer 2021 Insight Employer Newsletter
Clinical quality initiatives and provider partnerships add up to lower rate adjustments
By Rich Argentieri, Senior Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer
Our employer contacts may recall our recent announcement that we submitted our proposed 2022 small group premium rates to the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) for approval in May. We expect to hear from the DFS of our approved rate adjustments within the next couple of weeks.
For the second consecutive year, our requested rate adjustments essentially keep our premium rates flat for small groups, with an increase only by an average of 0.13% from our current levels if approved.
Independent Health has always taken an actuarially sound approach to rating all our products. Our focus on value and consistent discipline have helped us avoid unanticipated and extreme swings in our rate adjustments. This approach, combined with our collaborative initiatives with providers and hospitals, has again enabled us to deliver minimal rate adjustments at this critical time, as small businesses and their employees continue to deal with the after-effects and financial pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiatives that enabled us to deliver our 2022 proposed premium rates included the following:
- Care transitions:
We collaborated with hospital systems and independent physician associations to use appropriate care transition practices following an inpatient admission. Our value-based payment arrangements helped to reduce readmissions overall, as well as to increase medication reconciliation and timely follow-up after discharge. Through this collaboration, our members received the appropriate care they needed after leaving the hospital.
As a result, we achieved a nearly 19% decrease in preventable admissions and a 9% decrease in readmissions last year. This decrease in admissions resulted in an estimated cost-avoidance savings of nearly $7 million dollars.
- Medication adherence:
Efforts to ensure our members with heart disease or diabetes take their statins resulted in a three-percentage point increase in the number of members with diabetes or cardiovascular disease taking these medications.
Our teams also focused in on ensuring members with depression were compliant with their medications, which resulted in a two-percentage point increase in medication adherence for antidepressants.
- Preventive care efforts:
Despite the challenges of the past year, nearly 70% of our members have had a preventive care visit thanks to member outreach efforts and our strong partnership with primary care practices.
Looking ahead, Independent Health is heavily focused on improving the way members manage chronic conditions and to help them get and stay healthy:
- To address the rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes, we recently introduced a CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program called Brook+ with a $0 member cost share for all commercial plans. Brook+ provides digital and on-demand tools and personal coaching to encourage our members to adopt healthier habits and potentially cut their risk of developing diabetes in half. More than 3,300 members have already enrolled in the program.
- We have also invested in numerous innovative mobile applications and tools – like Brook Health Companion, Foodsmart, and Teladoc® – to help them make better decisions about their health.
Our efforts go beyond our membership as well. As Western New York’s only locally based health plan, Independent Health invests in wide-ranging initiatives through corporate partnerships and programs that engage the entire community in improving their health and wellbeing, with the goal of creating a culture of health throughout the region.
Despite the challenges we have faced as a community due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our commitment to achieving better health, better care and lower costs for our members has not wavered. Independent Health has a longstanding reputation as one of the top health insurance plans for customer service and member satisfaction in the nation.
James A. Dunlop, Jr. named new chief financial officer for Independent Health
James A. Dunlop, Jr., has been appointed as executive vice president & chief financial officer for Independent Health effective July 6, 2021. In this role, Dunlop will be responsible for the financial budgets and operations of the organization including the development of the financial and operational strategy, the company’s financial assets and reporting the financial results of Independent Health and its affiliate companies.
Dunlop succeeds long-time Independent Health associate, Ann Pentkowski, who announced her retirement in May as chief financial officer.
Dunlop’s experience includes more than 25 years in the health care financial field. Since 1996, Dunlop worked within the Catholic Health system, and was formerly its chief financial officer.
“Jim brings extensive financial knowledge and experience in the local and national health care industry, and we are thrilled to have identified a new CFO who possesses the necessary fiscal, investment, and risk-based reimbursement skills that will advance Independent Health’s position as one of the strongest companies in the region,” said Michael W. Cropp, M.D., Independent Health’s President and CEO. “In addition to the requisite industry expertise Jim brings to Independent Health, his personal values on work, family and community also align perfectly with our corporate culture.”
“I am both thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to work with Dr. Cropp and the entire Independent Health family. Their passion and dedication in serving the Western New York community is second to none,” said Dunlop. “As a lifelong and proud Western New Yorker, I look forward to contributing in any way I can to continue their long-standing commitment of innovation and service to our community.”
Dunlop holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and earned an MBA in Accounting and Health Care Management from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He and his wife, Cathy, reside in Orchard Park, New York.
thRed: A new plan that can make it easier for your employees to get and stay healthy
Independent Health has long set the standard for introducing new, innovative products and benefits that are first to market locally and nationally. We were the first plan in the country to offer gym memberships as part of a member’s health insurance, $0 copay for preventive services (which is now required coverage for all plans) and earning reward dollars for eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
For 2021, we’ve introduced a new product called thRed, which was developed around members’ needs for convenient and timely access to care and the recognition that more people are using a virtual care model. It is available to all large and small groups (both on and off exchange) whose employees live or work in Erie County.
How thRed works
Tech-savvy employees will get the most from this product starting when they activate their account through Independent Health’s MyIH app. Once activated, the mobile app experience drives the full value of the product and opens up the ease of chat support with a doctor and Independent Health RedShirtsSM, the opportunity to earn rewards and so much more.
Subscribers and spouses (regardless of age), as well as any covered dependents age 21 or over, will choose a primary care physician through General Physician, PC, who will lead a dedicated care team that will oversee all aspects of their care. They will also have access to the same network of hospitals and specialist in Western New York as our other plans.
Although many employers recognize the importance of employee wellness, they may have limited resources to fund a standalone wellness program. However, with thRed, not only are the premiums typically less than our other products – with similar copays and deductibles – but it also offers up to $550 in rewards when members engage in certain impactful health and wellness activities:
- Subscribers earn $200 for activating their account through the MyIH app (a $150 Health ExtrasSM Prepaid Visa® card and a $50 eGift card of their choice).
- Plus, throughout the year, subscribers can earn up to $300 more for completing various activities focused on improving health and wellness. Activities eligible for reward dollars include an annual wellness visit, flu shot, dental cleaning, exercising regularly, and volunteering in the community.
- Covered spouses can earn their own $50 eGift card when they activate their account through the MyIH app.
To learn more about thRed, please contact your account manager.
Celebrating 10 years of Fitness in the Parks
Independent Health and the YMCA are celebrating their 10th season of offering free Fitness in the Parks outdoor and online fitness classes led by YMCA-certified instructors. From now through September 30, people of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to safely join us in person or at home to get fit, have fun and enjoy the warmer weather.
Fitness in the Park is a community-based program that was designed to encourage physical activity and healthy lifestyles by offering free fitness classes in unique spaces – providing easy access and opportunities for people to start or continue their health and wellness journey. Since being launched in 2012, we have helped Western New Yorkers burn 8.2 million calories.
Here’s what Fitness in the Parks participants can expect this year:
- 30 outdoor classes offered each week. You can find a class every day, except for Labor Day (September 6).
- 4 virtual classes to join from home each week. These classes can be accessed through the YMCA Buffalo Niagara Facebook page.
- 18 park locations throughout Western New York.
- 15 different class types, featuring yoga, Pilates, Zumba®, fusion, kickboxing and more.
- No registration is required. Simply show up at the outdoor class you would like to attend or join online.
For your safety, we are taking extra precautions and following New York State safety protocols for all outdoor classes to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all.
In addition, as a way to commemorate the program’s 10th anniversary, participants will also have a chance to win weekly prize packs.
Power Up program offered by our wellness team
Independent Health has identified musculoskeletal conditions, such as low back pain, as one of the top cost drivers for our employer groups. As a result, our corporate wellness team has designed Power Up, an evidence-based program to increase overall muscular strength with an acute focus on low back health. Power Up can easily be administered through FitWorks®. We have also developed instructional videos to help your employees keep their backs and spines healthy.
MyIH app now provides chat support
With Independent Health’s free MyIH app, your employees have secure access to their plan information anytime, anywhere, right from their smartphone. Pus, they can now receive one-on-one chat support with a LIVE Independent Health RedShirt®, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. To learn more about the MyIH app, visit our website.