While many health insurance carriers are providing incentives for wellness and encouraging proactive care, a growing trend in health insurance is preparing for the worst.
UnitedHealthcare, which has seven New Jersey offices, recently announced its new critical illness protection plan, which is offered to employers with more than 50 employees. David Bailey, senior vice president of sales for the northeast region for UnitedHealthcare, said industry-wide, critical illness plans have increased in volume by 40 percent during the first quarter of 2012.
Bailey said what distinguishes the UnitedHealthcare plan from other critical illness plans is that there are so many different types of illness and injury covered. The plan outlines 13 critical illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease; if diagnosed with one of these conditions, plan members receive a lump-sum payout. Plans range in payout from $5,000 to $100,000, and are intended to help members coping with a critical illness diagnosis with out-of-pocket medical costs, daily living expenses and loss of income.
Bailey said the plan is popular because not only is it a significant boost in attracting and retaining employees, it also can reduce the company’s health insurance payout, as the coverage is voluntary. Voluntary benefits are offered by an employer, but fully paid for by the employee.
“More and more employers are looking at voluntary benefits,” Bailey said. “The great thing about critical illness protection, an employer group can offer it fully paid by the employer, they can have a core plan — we’re going to pay for a $5,000 a year benefit, but you’re going to have the ability to buy up to a $50,000 plan — (and) we offer it fully voluntary.”
The plan also incentivizes preventative care, with a $100 credit for members that complete their annual physical and a battery of screenings, according to Bailey.
Bailey said the plan allows companies that may need to make the unpopular move of increasing their employee contribution to benefits payments “the ability to offer a low-cost benefit that is very highly valued by employees and members.”