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The power of choice: Health exchanges Year II

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In a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His topics range from the powerful potential of technology to the issue of loneliness. His latest The Power of Choice: Health Exchanges Year II, is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

Last year, nearly seven million Americans signed up for health care coverage from public and private companies through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This has been a key first step in getting these people on the path to better health. They need it, and it’s a privilege for us and others to make this a reality for these Americans and their families.

More than one million people chose individual health plans from Humana, 600,000 of whom have signed up via Healthcare.gov and state health insurance exchanges in 14 states, and 100,000 of whom have signed up in ACA-compliant off-exchange offerings.

As their health partner, I’m asked quite a bit about the health of these consumers. For many people who signed up through the exchanges, being out of the health care system was a sign of unhealthiness.

I’ve met firsthand some of the people who have signed up for health coverage through the exchanges. Take Mississippi. Last year, Humana provided coverage through the exchange in 40 counties – including 36 counties where no other insurer was willing to participate in the first year of the exchange. Today, we’re helping many of these new members get on the path to better health through the right care while also helping them make more informed lifestyle decisions about their health. We’ve just started but the reactions on the ground from our new members are very encouraging.

It’s inspirational and moving to see how grateful many Mississippians are who now have health coverage for the first time. While health coverage may be something we take for granted, for these people it was a life-changing experience.

And it started with choice.

Exchanges Give Choices
During the last year, the power of choice has enabled nearly seven million Americans to select a health partner through the health exchanges. These exchanges have brought the power of choice to the world of health care.

Thanks to competition created by the exchanges, consumers are no longer tethered to the confinements of the past; companies must now compete for the right to help get them on the path to better health.

Choice, the foundation of competition, must, ultimately, go beyond choosing a health plan; it must be about finding a health partner that understands your needs. When you have competition, you’ll create an environment that fosters real innovation.

Competition Supports Engagement
A competitive environment pushes competitors to seek an edge, a way to truly differentiate their respective individual health value propositions to consumers. The value proposition must address how it can help consumers improve their health so they can lead the lives they choose.

Innovation must become more than the buzz word we all turn to when talking about how we’re going to transform health care. Engaging individuals in their health must leverage the way consumers actually use technology, as evidenced by the emergence of the quantified self.

For example, Apple, Google and other companies are taking innovative approaches to the wearable device market, which is going to empower people to manage their individual health like never before. Technology disrupted retail, financial services, travel agencies and other industries and it’s time to leverage it in health care.

However, in order to do so, you must have a trusting relationship with the individual to build the foundation to better health.

Trust and Customization
Ultimately, engaging people about their health requires a bond of trust. If you want them to trust how you plan to improve their health so they can do the things they love to do, you have to start by listening and helping them reach their quantitative and qualitative health goals. Consumers ultimately want to know that their health partner understands them as a person.

Given how personalized each consumer’s needs are, this requires customized health solutions that are tailored to these specific needs. Consumers have come to expect this from other industries. Understanding the individualized needs of the consumers requires this personalized approach that also takes a holistic approach to their health and well-being.

Ensuring the highest quality of care must always be our primary focus in improving the health of the populations that sign up through exchanges. By focusing on helping people improve their health, we’ll drive affordable health care. First and foremost, we must continue to deliver the most personalized, high quality, empathetic care the best we can.

Making it easier for people to improve their health and navigate the complex health care system will also help lead to a measureable impact on the exchange and other populations.

Change Lifestyles
To improve health, however, it is not just about the health care system, but about understanding and changing the lifestyles of an unhealthy population.
It goes beyond conventional health coverage. Do people have exercise options? Are there accessible farmers markets? Do they have sidewalks where they can walk? Do they have a friend or health coach that can help them?

Solving these health challenges requires a consumer-centric approach to people who chose these exchanges to start their health journeys. To improve population health, addressing lifestyles of the consumers who have put their trust in us as their health partner is a critical element in improving the health of exchange populations.

There’s Work to be Done
We’re still early in the journey. Mistakes will be made, but we’ll learn from them and come back stronger. Good things take time, teamwork, patience and diligence. That’s a valuable lesson that we need to remind ourselves of when it comes to embarking on unprecedented historic journeys.

Americans who first signed up for coverage via the exchange (Healthcare.gov) and other channels have already put their trust in us to get them on the path to better health.

Now it’s time to build on what we’ve begun, together, for them and others, and help more people get on a path to making health goals a reality.

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