Picture this: Nearly 1 in 5 of U.S. adults have put off preventive care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.* That’s a real statistic, according to Harvard’s School of Public Health, and a frightening one at that. Today, many of our clients are looking at ways to encourage their employees to get in front of health concerns by scheduling routine preventive care. We’ve learned many lessons from our client—the 4th District IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Health Fund—who has had a successful preventive care incentive program in place since 2018. Let’s take a closer look at how they did it.
In 2018, the 4th District IBEW Health Fund (the Fund) noticed an increasing amount of health care claims for chronic conditions among members. When they looked at the numbers, it was nearly one in two members. Wow. Diabetes, congestive heart failure, hypertension, just to name a few, were some of the most prevalent conditions. The Fund needed to act.
To help members put their health first, the Fund and the Board of Trustees needed a solution where members would be rewarded if they focused on maintaining a healthy life, while preventing any existing health conditions from getting worse. To achieve this, the Fund partnered with us to create an annual wellness incentive program focused on driving better health outcomes by participating in routine preventive care.
Here's How It Works
Each year, members and their spouses are asked to complete HEALTHY LIFE physical exams with their doctors. If the exam is completed prior to the deadline, members and their spouses will receive lower benefit costs for the next two plan years—specifically, $600 off their annual deductible, a lower share of coinsurance by 10%, and savings of up to $1,750 on their annual in-network out-of-pocket maximums. In advance of their physical exams, members and their spouses are given a reference card, which helps them know what to speak to their doctor about during their visit. It also allows them to track their health results over time. Following their visits, members and their spouses are encouraged to review their results with their doctors and discuss any potential health risks and necessary follow-up care.
To be successful with this program, awareness and understanding were mission critical. Together, we created a compelling, multimedia communications campaign—one that grabbed members’ attention, educated them on the benefits of safeguarding their health, and, most importantly, motivated them to act.
Shifting the Mindset
The first step in developing this campaign was creating a broader brand identity for the program. The brand—HEALTHY LIFE, with the supporting tagline Make It Yours—included a vibrant color pallet, actional tone and voice, and relatable imagery that connected meaning to the actions that the 4th District IBEW Health Fund wanted members to take.
In creating this campaign, it was evident that the Fund members needed our help in overcoming several challenges, such as:
- High claims due to lack of annual physicals and age-related screenings
- A false belief that they would be penalized for certain test outcomes
These challenges were at the forefront of our minds when we created the HEALTHY LIFE brand and supporting messaging.
Building Trust, Dispelling Fears
To help build trust and dispel fears, we created communications and messaging that directly addressed the concerns that members might have:
- Program participation was voluntary for members and their spouses. While children were not eligible, members were encouraged to keep up preventive care for their children too.
- Members had several months to participate, so there was time to ask questions, learn more, and schedule appointments.
- Members who completed their physical exams by the deadline were eligible to receive the incentive for two years. After the two-year period, another physical exam was required.
- Drug and/or alcohol tests would not be part of the physical exam, so there was no fear of reprisal for seeking routine medical care.
- The use of in-network providers was reinforced, and members were reminded that in-network preventive care was covered 100%.
- Members were encouraged to talk with their doctors about their test results and the actions they might take to maintain or improve their health. A doctor-visit reference card was provided, which included a way to track test results.
- Members were assured that test results were completely confidential and only available to members and their doctors. Results would not be shared with the Fund, weren’t used for employment decisions, and didn’t determine eligibility for benefits.
This direct language was integrated into an annual campaign that included multiple digital and print pieces, including mailed announcement and reminder postcards, an informational video, a brochure, web page dashboard (with reminders), quarterly newsletters, and a checklist that members could use to take to their doctor appointments.
Rewarding Both the Fund and Its Members
Since the program’s launch in January 2018, it has achieved great success, and both the 4th District IBEW Health Fund and its members have reaped the rewards of that success.
- Participation has remained steady at nearly 90%.
- The program consistently engages target participants—those who have or are more at risk of chronic conditions and, as a result, are more frequent users of health care.
- There are significant savings in monthly health care costs for participants.
- There has been a reduction in health risks since the program’s inception.
The keys to success for this award-winning program included communicating regularly about the program and sending direct reminders through various channels, as well as keeping a close eye on members’ claims data, so that we could monitor any trending health risks. This allowed us to adjust the program criteria as needed, so members remained incentivized to receive the care they needed, when they needed it.
The campaign was so successful that it won a Gold Hermes Creative Award, which recognizes outstanding work in the marketing and communications industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the likelihood of deferred preventive care. Having a strong preventive care incentive program in place can help keep employees on track for creating and maintaining healthier habits. Keep this story in mind as you’re thinking through your next post-pandemic health care strategy.
We’re proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.
* Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel, and John Benson, “One in five in U.S. report delayed health care during pandemic,” Harvard School of Public Health.