April 25, 2014

Recent research from Cigna shows that consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) have reduced health care expenses for consumers and employers by shifting behavior rather than altering cost. The plans align with the growing trend of helping employers improve members’ health.

In its eighth annual Cigna Choice Fund Experience Study, the health company aimed to determine the effects of CDHPs on consumers by comparing the claims data and utilization of over 3.6 million Cigna customers who continuously held policies throughout 2011 and 2012, says Nick Calabrese, VP of consumerism product management at Cigna.

Members were divided into three groups for comparative purposes. The control group contained policyholders enrolled in traditional HMO or PPO plans for the two years, the second was comprised of those who had a traditional plan in 2011 and a CDHP in 2012, and the third consisted of members who held a CDHP policy for both years.

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Results indicate that behavioral changes are evident among CDHP members, who proved more likely to complete health risk assessments, comply with medicinal best practices and lower their health risk. Three-quarters registered for the Cigna personal health portal or mobile app, which was about 30% more than those with traditional health plans. Over 80% of CDHP policyholders were likely to access their benefits and expense information through one of those digital channels.

The Cigna CDHP utilizes a digital system that measures incentives for its policyholders. Health coaches can privately view members’ health information, which is kept secure through encryption, and provide advice on how they can best ameliorate risks. Various health apps also motivate members to become more involved with wellness and prevention programs.

“With these plans, [members] become more engaged because there’s a little bit more at stake,” Calabrese says of the behavioral shift. “The higher registration rate is great, but they’re also going online more frequently.”

Of those who frequent Cigna’s online or mobile tools, 26% are more likely to access the provider directory and services. One-third of them are more likely to research the costs of various procedures. While the digital channels are more popular, a customer service line is also available for those who prefer to call with claims-related questions.

“I think we see that there are different preferences for different people,” Calabrese explains. “I’d like to continue to build more flexibility, and give them more access online and via mobile device, but I think it’s important to have all three.”

The behavioral shift has led to decreased costs for CDHP members, who also experienced 12% savings compared to traditional policyholders in the first year. The expense reductions were achieved without employers transferring out-of-pocket costs to employees. Cigna found that cumulative savings of $7,900 per member over five years are possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelly is an associate editor for Insurance & Technology. Prior to joining InformationWeek Financial Services, she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. Kelly has also written for trade ...