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How holistic programs improve senior health

Medicare Advantage plans need to rise above the competition by going beyond traditional fitness offerings.

Making a difference

Ten years ago, simply offering a fitness program was enough to differentiate a Medicare Advantage plan from competitors. But now these plans need to do much more to stand out from the crowd. 

“Fitness programs are now table stakes, with 95% of Medicare Advantage plans having one. Instead of a ‘nice-to-have,’ it’s a ‘must-have’ in the marketplace,” said Brett Hanson, head of market and product development, Optum Health Solutions. “Historically, all plans have had similar offerings focusing only on the gym networks. And if they continue to do so, they won’t be differentiating themselves from other competitors in the marketplace. Simply offering a gym membership or discount is not enough in today’s world.”

To differentiate themselves, plans need to offer:

Holistic services

Physical fitness is just one component of overall wellness. Because of this, health plans need to meet member needs by offering holistic programs.

“Think active body, active mind. Plans should try to address all the unmet needs of the senior population,” Hanson said. “So, health plans need to really expand within the ancillary and supplemental space to go beyond physical fitness and to offer cognitive brain training and social connection options as well.”

Brain training programs can help seniors improve cognitive functions including attention, memory and brain speed. Social programs such as arts and crafts, dance, gardening, painting, sewing and other clubs help seniors connect with one another over shared hobbies.

Choice and convenience

Plans also need to provide seniors with plenty of options. “The needs of a generation in their 80s are so different from those who are 65 and just aging into Medicare,” said Vince Pozinski, head of government product, Optum Health Solutions.

In addition, plans need to meet members where they are by offering services and programs at locations near their homes. Optum offers a network with more than 24,000 fitness locations, making it likely that members have access to convenient options.

Health plans can make it convenient for seniors to exercise by offering home kits. For example, strength, yoga and dance kits that include equipment and instructional videos, cards or DVDs empower seniors to exercise at their convenience in their homes.

Digital access

While it’s important to offer in-person access to physical fitness, brain health and social programs, it’s also vital to meet the increasing demand for digital access. To meet this need, health plans should offer a full array of programs that members can access digitally from any location at any time.

“When you look at digital content, health plans need to make sure that they have content for everybody, not just content traditionally associated with older adults. Not everybody needs to be in a chair or has limited movement and capability,” Pozinski said.

Reaping the benefits

Holistic and convenient wellness programs make it possible for plans to help seniors lead healthier lives. As a result, health plans can improve member acquisition, retention and satisfaction.

Learn more about One Pass for Medicare.