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This past November 6th Chen May Yee of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a front page article entitled “Insurers Trying the Nanny Approach.” Some of you may have already heard this term, but all of you will soon become familiar with it. In our 3rd quarter newsletter we dedicated the entire issue to the subject of “consumer engagement/awareness,” specifically HSA/HRAs. The “Nanny Approach” goes hand in hand with that theory, as it relates to consumer awareness.

The “Nanny Approach,” Chen Yee is referring to, is a new initiative by our most visible MN health insurance carriers, to involve themselves in patient decisions, ultimately to control cost. This approach attempts to educate insureds more than anything, and is your insurance company’s way of making sure you have all the facts.

Like anything new, this approach has its supporters and its skeptics. Those opposing the new approach say that it is intrusive and confuses the patient. According to Dr. Dave Abelson, the Vice President of the technology development at Park Nicollet, the new approach is “fracturing care,” by adding an extra layer between doctor and patient. He goes on to say that it is “confusing patients,” because they are hearing multiple suggestions from two different sources that often do not consult with one another.

Although Abelson makes a convincing argument, there is another side to this issue. Some insureds find it comforting to receive a phone call from someone who is dedicated to their wellbeing. It’s not a family member or concerned friend, but a medically trained RN and/or unbiased support personnel. In the article Yee says that “most clinics and hospital’s aren’t equipped to cope well with chronic diseases, mainly because doctors are paid to treat acute events such as heart attacks or injuries.” Yee brings up a good point that in some of these instances, a doctor’s follow through for ongoing treatments and lifestyle changes, might not be as focused as that of the health insurance companies, who have more invested. At this point, these programs are typically used for chronic disease management, but we are starting to see the emergence of new programs that offer employers and employees incentives for their involvement. Incentives such as discounted gym memberships and premium breaks for 100% in employee health assessment tests, used to catch or prevent chronic diseases in their early stages. These are just some of what is out there and what is to come.

The “Nanny Approach,” may or may not be liked by everyone, but if the long term result reduces health care costs, and creates a more educated consumer, then I believe it is here to stay.

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