As aging in place continues to be a focal point in the long-term care (LTC) industry, providers and insurers are continuing to explore and develop new and different kinds of wellness programs to help improve the health of insureds, keep insureds home longer, and hopefully reduce the number, severity and duration of LTC insurance (LTCi) claims.
Wellness initiatives focus on a range of different goals, depending on the target population. Many wellness programs are designed to build healthy habits, sustain motivation towards wellness goals and ultimately reduce the need for insureds to pursue claims for long-term care. Some programs focus on helping insureds measure and maintain fitness statistics that have become ubiquitous as wearable devices have emerged over the past few years. These include measuring the number of steps taken, providing feedback on periodic fitness goals and providing general benchmarks of health and fitness. Encouraging an overall sense of well-being is designed to help policyholders maintain healthy lifestyles, which in turn has been proven to prevent cognitive and physical decline. Insurers are working to figure out how to provide wellness-focused products and programs to their existing insureds, and newer product lines are looking to incorporate wellness initially. In addition, making insureds aware of government benefits or other “free” benefits or services in their area can increase the likelihood of healthy living.
Some of these new initiatives are truly cutting-edge. One example of such a program is an evidence-based fall prevention program that uses mobile device-based balance training. The mobile app provides individualized training using the sensors inside a smart device to measure a user’s balance and adapt their training program accordingly over the course of 10 to 20 sessions. The app aims to provide a finite training program that users will eventually graduate from as their balance improves.
For insurers, engaging consumers with wellness programs will potentially pay dividends. One carrier provided its LTCi policyholders with a chronic disease screening. Of the 10% of policyholders who agreed to receive the initial screening, 30% subsequently paid out-of-pocket for additional screening. By providing a limited benefit, the carrier allowed its policyholders to take initiative with respect to their own health. This program also allowed the carrier to analyze data for its own risk assessments to determine when interventions may be necessary or useful to each policyholder.
Another carrier recently partnered with an early-stage robotics company that developed a robot designed to empower policyholders to live more independently. Utilizing 3D vision, obstacle sensors and navigation capabilities, the robot can lift, transfer and carry small and large objects (e.g., groceries and medications) throughout an individual’s home. That is, the robot essentially serves as a second set of hands capable of performing tasks that might otherwise prove difficult for elderly or disabled persons, thereby improving their ability to remain independent.
Insurers should consider whether wellness programs align with their products and goals as these plans continue to proliferate.