Paperless policy shows glimpse of health plans' digital future

Apr 01, 2011

With technology seemingly taking over the healthcare field, managed care organizations are thinking of innovative ways to reach out to consumers.

NATIONAL REPORTS-With technology seemingly taking over the healthcare field, managed care organizations are thinking of innovative ways to reach out to consumers.

HealthPartners, a not-for-profit insurer, is now offering short-term paperless policies.

The product, Link90, is a 90-day plan aimed at younger members in transition or just out of school. Enrollment and transactions are completed exclusively online. Members can print out an ID card, but the card can also be accessed on a smart phone and faxed to a provider.

He says that smart phone usage has grown since the launch of Link90's mobile site in October 2009. In the past 12 months, 74,000 unique visitors have viewed the Web site, with 245,000 page views.

But are providers embracing the idea of this new technology?

Aebischer says that providers have been using online services for some time, looking up benefit information, claims status and network information. He believes that as smart phone usage grows, scanning an ID card from a phone will be as common as scanning an airline boarding pass from a phone.

Aebischer says that Link90 acts as a stepping-stone to extend the paperless process to include all aspects of the consumer documentation process: EOBs, summary plan descriptions, account summaries, claims status, individual applications and dependent proxies. However, members who want to receive paper documents will still have that option in most cases.

But with healthcare reform, adults up to age 26 can now remain on their parents' health plans by law. Aebischer says the market remains reasonable for this type of product.

"There will always be a population segment in need of a short-term product beyond the dependents under age 26," he says. "We have not seen a decrease in our short-term product activity."

In addition to providing coverage for medical emergencies, Link90 also covers common conditions without any out-of-pocket costs. Link90 members will receive three free visits at an online clinic that provides diagnosis, treatment and prescriptions for common illnesses such as pink eye, sinus infections, flu and bladder infections.

"Our goal in offering the [virtual] visits at no out-of-pocket cost was to create first dollar coverage and value for a consumer who typically buys this type of product for protection against urgently needed or emergency care," Aebischer says.

Virtual visits typically cost nonmembers up to $40. Each member will also receive a coupon to purchase a full dental exam, cleaning and x-rays for $99. Depending on age and deductible, Link90 coverage starts at about $100.

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