"AARP saw the opportunity to help improve the public's health and for the first time has negotiated to link insurers' revenues with their ability to improve members' health," explains John Wider, vice president of health products and services, AARP Services. "Health metrics will be developed that will track targeted improvements in the care received by our members."
UnitedHealth will offer Medicare Advantage insurance, which likely will be the only Medicare Advantage program with a two-year commitment—for 2008 and 2009—by the carrier, "doubling the requirement by law in order to provide people greater stability in their healthcare," according to Wider. "A stand-out for the Aetna relationship is a new benefit insurance offering that caters to members ages 50 to 64—ages where insurance often is unavailable or unaffordable."
These relationships will help fund a new program called AARP Health AID, which will help Americans find answers to their healthcare questions—anyone, anytime, anywhere, says Wider. "The effort is intended to help people get the healthcare answers they are looking for, whether it is remote caregiving for older relatives, arranging long-term care services, providing information about health conditions and disease prevention, and information to help encourage healthy lifestyles," he says.
POISED TO DELIVER
"Our new agreement recognizes the significant changes that have occurred in the healthcare landscape over the past decade, particularly the aging of the baby boomer generation and their greater need for healthcare products and services," says Tom Paul, who leads UnitedHealth's Strategic Alliances.
UnitedHealth's agreement with AARP expands its existing arrangement to offer Medigap policies and certain plans for members aged 50 to 64 for an additional seven years, provides for a greater number of AARP-branded Medicare Advantage plans, and extends their Part D agreement, which had been scheduled to expire at the end of 2010.
"In the healthcare landscape, costs are going up, the number of uninsured is rising and there is an increasing number of individuals and early retirees without employer benefits that make an initiative like this a very important part of transforming healthcare," says Aetna Spokeswoman Cynthia B. Michener.
There are several unique aspects to this initiative, Michener explains, including the targeted focus on the age 50+ segment, with products, advice and tools that are tailored to their specific needs.
The interesting long-term outlook will be for AARP, says Robert Taketomo, PharmD, MBA, president and CEO, Ventegra. Dr. Taketomo asks: "How will other insurance companies view and talk about AARP? Will this provide a window for new organizations to represent seniors in a neutral fashion? How successful will AARP be in steering potential patients and members to United and Aetna?
"Medicare Advantage health plans are capitated and profitability is a function of access and a selection of choice in providers and therapy," Dr. Taketomo continues. "How will such restrictions impact the image of AARP—especially with what sounds like a two-year commitment for the patient?"
John Baackes, CEO of Senior Whole Health (SWH), Cambridge, Mass., says that using AARP's vast communication network among its members, the insurers will reduce acquisition costs. "If AARP acts as the collection agent, it is another headache removed for the insurers," Baackes says. "Medicare . . . always anticipated some cost sharing with the beneficiaries. From Medicare's inception 40 years ago, there has been a market for Medigap policies for the deductibles, coinsurance and services not covered."