Traveling this Summer? Take Your Healthcare with You

Eighty-five percent of Americans are planning vacations this summer. As we all know, you can plan your flights, hotels, etc., but one thing you can’t plan for is a surprise sickness. Let’s cover common health issues when traveling, common barriers to healthcare, and how a Direct Primary Care (DPC) membership can bring peace of mind for your next vacation.

What are some common health problems for travelers?

When we travel, our immune system is weakened. Several factors can play into this: we’re not in our typical habitat (i.e., a change in altitude, weather, allergens), we experience an altered sleep schedule, our diet changes, etc. These factors open the door to many illnesses that can sneak in due to our weakened immunity.

Here are some common health issues people face when traveling:

  • Common Cold: Our immune system is weakened during travel, leading to a higher likelihood of contracting an illness. Colds are among the most common. They’re only present for a few days and are usually mild. However, these symptoms can worsen if the proper measures aren’t taken.
  • Stomach pain: Changing your diet while traveling or eating rich and unfamiliar foods can lead to stomach problems. The most common problem among them is diarrhea. If you’re traveling outside of the US, drinking contaminated food or water can lead to “traveler’s diarrhea.” It typically isn’t severe, but if you experience symptoms like a fever or persistent vomiting, seek out medical help.
  • Environmental allergies: Most people travel to a different climate, so staying outdoors for an extended period can lead to allergies. Most people take allergy medication for this problem, like an antihistamine. However, sometimes further steps are needed, and medical treatment is advised.
Common barriers people face when they need healthcare while traveling

When you’re on vacation, the last thing you want is an illness or medical emergency. One of the most significant issues people face is not understanding how to use their benefits while on vacation. For example: what clinics can you visit and, if necessary, how much will an urgent care visit cost? Another barrier is needing continuity of care. This means you might see a doctor in another city or state, and they need to know your previous medical history. This issue can be complicated, resulting in you spending more time filling out paperwork so the physician can understand your medical history and best assess your current health issue.

Direct Primary Care memberships offer benefits at home and on the road

Healthcare2U’s nationwide Direct Primary Care (DPC) membership combines affordability and convenience to create a healthcare solution especially beneficial while traveling. Healthcare2U’s membership offers unlimited benefits such as virtual care for no out-of-pocket cost and in-office visits to participating physicians across state lines for $10 per visit.

At Healthcare2U, our DPC membership starts with a call to our Patient Advocacy Line (PAL). PAL is staffed by bilingual certified medical professionals who walk you through benefits and point you in the right direction. Since our DPC membership is nationwide, you’ll have access to any physician within our network. If you prefer a virtual option, you can always use telehealth. For any care coordinated by Healthcare2U, those Electronic Health Records (EHR) live in Healthcare2U’s system, so you receive continuity of care no matter where you are.

If you’re interested in learning more about how DPC can give you peace of mind for you and your family while you travel, click here.

The Warning Signs for Skin Cancer and How to Prevent It

The conversation surrounding skin cancer has grown over the past few years, likely gaining momentum from startling statistics and countless warnings from doctors. Melanoma, one of the four main types of skin cancer, had a 27 percent increase in new invasive cases diagnosed annually from 2013 to 2023.

In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we’ll discuss the different types of skin cancer, their early warning signs, and how to protect yourself against it.

The different types of skin cancer

Skin cancer develops from the abnormal growth of skin cells. One in five people in the US will develop it by the time they’re 70 years old.

There are four main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell carcinoma are the most prevalent typically appearing in the most sun-exposed areas of your body. Basal cell carcinoma appears as a pearly wax or bump, a flesh-colored or brown scar, or bleeding and scabbing. Squamous cell carcinoma seems more of a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a crusted and scaly surface. Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer, appearing as tumors, painful lesions, or nodules on sun-exposed areas.

Melanoma is likely the type of skin cancer most are familiar with. This cancer can appear anywhere on your body and is usually identifiable as a mole that changes in color or size, a large brown spot with dark speckles, or dark lesions on your hands or feet. We’ve heard dermatologists’ pleas, especially with the younger generations, to start wearing sunscreen every day — even on overcast days. Too many ultraviolet (UV) rays damage your skin and increase the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Freckles, something that many people credit their genetics for, are caused mainly by UV exposure.

What causes skin cancer?

While many know too much exposure to UV rays is a significant factor in skin damage, many other characteristic risk factors may heighten your chance of developing this type of cancer.

  • Blue or green eyes
  • Lighter skin or skin that is easily burnt
  • Particular hair colors (such as red or blonde)
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Old age
How to protect against skin cancer

Unfortunately, genetics are unchangeable, but there are ways to avoid too much sun exposure so you have a better chance of staving off cancer. To protect yourself, you can take several precautions that lessen your chances of developing it.

  • Avoid the sun, if possible, from 10 AM to 2 PM when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every two hours outside.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Schedule an exam with your Primary Care Physician (PCP) if you have concerns about your skin.

If you think you have any of the symptoms stated earlier or believe you’re at risk of developing them, consult with your PCP to set up a time to get tested for skin cancer. Early detection of this type of cancer is critical! With Healthcare2U, it’s as easy as picking up the phone and calling your doctor.

Colon Cancer is on the Rise in Young People – What to Know and When You Should Get Tested

We’ve all heard the recommendation from doctors to test early on for breast or skin cancer. Still, another cancer is becoming more prevalent each year—colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer). This type of cancer is becoming more commonplace across the board and specifically rising in younger people under 50.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the rate at which the younger population is getting diagnosed, when you should get tested, and what tests are the best option for you.

 

Colon cancer is rising for people under 50

For some time, colon cancer rates dropped, but from 2012 through 2016, it increased yearly by two percent in people younger than 50 and one percent in people 50 to 64. For people younger than 50, from 2020 to 2023, there was a nine percent increase in diagnosed cases. Colon cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer for men and women combined in the US. Along with the rising number of diagnosed cases, it’s also become more aggressive for people under 50.

So, why are colon cancer diagnoses among younger people on the rise? No one can pinpoint this, but the most significant risk factors for developing this illness are living a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, heavy drinking and smoking, high-fat diets, and other environmental factors. Since we can’t pinpoint precisely why this type of cancer is rising, testing for it as early as possible is critical. If you can test early enough, you can prevent the disease from getting worse and possibly, even prevent death.

When should you test for colon cancer?

As mentioned before, early testing and detection can be the key to prevention. There are a few risk factors to consider when testing for colon cancer. You should test if you have one or more of the risk factors below.

  • 45 to 75 Years of age. The ages recommended to get tested for colon cancer are 45 to 75, but this can depend on if you already have one of the diseases listed below.
  • Gastrointestinal/other types of diseases. If you have any of the diseases listed here, you should get tested as early as 45, or in specific cases, even sooner.
    • An inflammatory bowel disease such as Chron’s or Ulcerative Colitis.
    • A family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps (masses in your colon that can become cancerous).
    • A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) external icon or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
What screening test/procedure is right for me?

Several screening tests are currently available on the market, as well as more traditional screening procedures. The test may be as simple as mailing in a specimen from the comfort of your home, so speak to your Primary Care Physician (PCP) about what they recommend. Below are the five types of screening tests.

  1. Fecal occult blood test. This non-invasive test checks stool for blood that can only be seen with a microscope. A sample is placed on a card or container and sent to a doctor or a lab for testing.
  2. Sigmoidoscopy. An invasive procedure involving a thin, tube-like instrument called a sigmoidoscope that looks inside the rectum and lower colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer.
  3. Colonoscopy. This is the most common procedure, and similar to sigmoidoscopy. The most significant difference is the colonoscope (small tube) is inserted through the rectum into the colon. Doctors can remove most polyps found while inside using this specific tube.
  4. Virtual colonoscopy. This is a non-invasive procedure using a series of X-rays called “computed tomography” to take pictures of the colon. A computer then puts together those images and checks for any irregularities.
  5. DNA stool test. Similar to a fecal occult blood test, this non-invasive test checks DNA in the stool cells for genetic changes that may develop into colon cancer.

The bottom line is this — don’t forget about colon cancer! With this type of cancer clearly on the rise, especially among the younger population, early detection is the key to managing this illness. Consult your PCP if you have any of the risk factors mentioned in this blog. Healthcare2U’s Direct Primary Care membership connects you with a PCP who is your care advocate and can educate you on which screening test is best for you. Read more about our membership on our website or contact us to speak to a representative.

Why Fad Diets Can Be Dangerous, and How to Spot Them

An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. Of those 45 million, 50 percent stated they participated in a “fad diet.” A fad diet is marketed as the best and fastest way to lose weight. Often touted as the next “craze,” they only last a few months, leaving expensive supplements and specialty foods in their wake, never to be used again.

Although some fad diets have components of truth, they’re often marketed as one-size-fits-all, which can be very harmful. Forcing a diet when it’s not suitable for your body can be dangerous. We’ll dive into why fad diets are bad for you, how to spot them, and the best option for starting off a diet correctly.

Why fad diets can be harmful

While there are many positives to eating healthier and losing weight, when the cons of a diet outweigh the pros, it becomes an issue. Fad diets often don’t give your body the proper nourishment to maintain a healthy and happy life. Below are a few reasons why fad diets can be harmful.

  • They can negatively affect your physical/mental health. Fad diets can create digestive issues like bloating, indigestion, and constipation, to name a few, as well as cause issues with your mental health. Cognitive function can decline because most fad diets are low in salt and glucose, which are crucial for normal brain function. They also increase stress levels, which can lead to depression, especially if the diet isn’t giving you the desired outcome.
  • They can be expensive. Many diets claim that you must buy a particular type of supplement or that you need to throw away all your food and start fresh with specialty ingredients. This practice can be costly and wasteful, especially if you drop off your diet before it’s finished.
  • They can end up causing weight gain. Fad diets may make you lose weight quickly for a brief period, but that’s usually just water weight. Once the diet is over, you typically regain that weight fast and in full.
How to spot a fad diet

Fad diets will be easy to spot as they are diets that become popular quickly and fade fast. However, sometimes they aren’t as obvious, and some are easier to spot than others. Here are a few key indicators you’re dealing with a fad diet.

  • It claims you don’t need to exercise.
  • It promises quick weight loss.
  • It requires you to buy dietary supplements, typically labeled as “weight loss aids, fat burners,” etc.
  • It’s very rigid and has you on an extreme eating schedule.
  • It doesn’t have much evidence or many studies to back it up.

Some fad diets you might be familiar with throughout the years are the Keto diet, Whole30, Atkins, and juice cleansing, to name a few. These diets were trendy during their prime and even worked briefly for some people, but ultimately, they were not sustainable.

The best and safest way to start dieting

The best advice for someone wanting to start a diet is to consult a dietician. Dieticians are experts in food and nutrition and will be able to assess your weight, health, and current eating habits and create a diet plan that is best for you. They’ll then track your progress and make sure you’re staying healthy and still getting the essential nutrients your body needs. Utilizing these experts makes it easy to follow a plan while healthily achieving your desired results.

Analyzing the Cost of Chronic Diseases and Their Effect on Employers

Chances are you, or someone you know, has a chronic disease. The CDC finds that six in ten adults have a chronic illness in the US, and four in ten have two or more. Most are preventable by engaging in activities such as eating healthier, exercising, and cutting out habits like smoking and drinking. Unfortunately, a 2022 study found that 93 percent of Americans are unhealthy, so the likelihood of people taking these steps to prevent a possible health condition is unlikely. Not only do these diseases cost the individual time and money, they also cost their employers. We’ll discuss the top chronic diseases, how much money employers spend managing them, and an easy solution for both parties.

The top five chronic diseases in the US

As mentioned, chronic diseases are illnesses you most often gain through an unhealthy lifestyle. Chronic diseases are slower to develop and progress over time, not to be confused with acute diseases, which come on rapidly and require urgent or short-term care. Below are five prevalent chronic diseases in the US.

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Diabetes
  4. Hypertension
  5. Arthritis

Another chronic illness that many overlook is mental health. According to a recent Gallup poll, 19 percent of all US workers rate their mental health as fair or poor. Four out of ten workers also said their job has an extremely negative (seven percent) or somewhat negative (33 percent) impact on their mental health. While the conversation about mental health in the workplace is a relatively newer topic, the trend of companies prioritizing employees’ mental health and including health benefits offerings around them is growing.

How much money do employers spend on employees’ chronic diseases?

Employees with chronic conditions like those above can be difficult for companies to manage financially. According to the CDC, 90 percent of the nation’s $4.1 trillion annual healthcare costs are for patients with chronic diseases. Five chronic diseases or risk factors (high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, and obesity) cost employers in the US $36.4 billion a year due to employee absenteeism.

An Avidon Health report highlighted the cost of unhealthy habits for organizations per employee. Here are some of the key findings pertaining to the above risk factors mentioned:

The study found that the cost impact of the unhealthy habits above equals around $3,600 per employee per year.

As mentioned earlier, mental health also comes into play when discussing employee absenteeism costs for employers. In the US workforce, the workdays missed by employees suffering from one or more mental health issues cost the country $47.6 billion annually.

Seeing a doctor once a year can make a big difference in preventing chronic diseases

A large part of preventing these types of conditions is consulting your doctor. A yearly physical is recommended to check if you are at risk for developing a chronic disease. Conditions such as type 2 diabetes will usually warn you when you’re nearing this diagnosis — as 70 percent of people with prediabetes, a precursor to the illness, are later diagnosed. During your physical, your doctor can test and even diagnose if you have a chronic disease. If you’re nearing a diagnosis, they can set you up with a treatment plan to prevent it.

How Healthcare2U’s Direct Primary Care membership can lower employer costs associated with chronic diseases?

It’s worth noting that affordable and easy-to-use healthcare options result in a stable and happier work environment for employees. The effects increase productivity and save employers money. One solution that offers this type of healthcare is direct primary care (DPC). DPC is a steadily growing solution in the US that utilizes an integrated benefit model to overcome affordability restrictions of modern-day healthcare and to address long-standing accessibility barriers to managing preventative care, chronic conditions, and new health issues in a timely fashion before emergencies arise.

Healthcare2U’s DPC membership focuses on preventing, detecting, and managing 13 prevalent chronic disease states. This unlimited benefit is included in the membership for just $10 a visit. Having these benefits allows members peace of mind and continuity of care.

Healthcare2U helps employers manage the exorbitant cost of chronic disease by offering affordable, quality care and providing tools to prevent them from developing. Members also receive unlimited access to patient advocates that direct them through their benefits. Benefits include unlimited Virtual Primary Care for no out-of-pocket cost, unlimited in-office acute visits for $10 per visit and $25 urgent care visits, an annual physical with four basic labs and generous pharmaceutical discounts. Contact us to learn more about Healthcare2U and how it can help alleviate the costs of chronic illnesses for employers.

Wake Up and Workout – Why Morning Exercise is Better for You

When is the best time to work out? Some people prefer the morning, as the gyms are quieter, and they can start the day off energized; some say the afternoon is best so they can burn off steam from a demanding workday. According to scientists, the morning is the best time to work out. You’ll need to do some of your own research to figure out which option is best for you. Here we’ll learn why morning workouts are (generally) better, their possible downsides, and how to really make the most of them.

Reasons why morning workouts are best

Once you get past the sometimes-daunting thought of waking up early, you realize there are more advantages than disadvantages when working out at this time.

  • Fewer distractions – earlier workouts usually mean fewer people to interact with, so you don’t have to deal with crowds. Focusing on the task is easier, so you don’t get distracted!
  • You put yourself in a good mood for the rest of the day – when you exercise, you release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals your body releases while experiencing stress or pain, aiding in overall well-being.
  • You give yourself more energy – once you get over the general grogginess that can come from starting to wake up earlier, your adrenaline starts flowing, causing you to become more alert and energized.
  • You better your cardiovascular health – a study concluded that between 8 and 11 AM is the best time to work out to better your cardiovascular health. In this study, working out at 11 AM had the greatest positive effect on a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke compared to activity at different times. Overall, people who exercised at 11 AM were 16 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 17 percent less likely to have a first stroke of any kind.
  • Cooler weather – if exercising outside, you can beat the heat by working out in the morning. Sometimes the temperature can jump 30 degrees in hotter areas in a matter of hours. Exercising outside in high temperatures can be dangerous, so a morning workout is considered safer.
  • You improve your sleep cycle – research finds that morning workouts shift your circadian rhythm, so your body is naturally more alert in the morning and more tired in the evening.
Downsides to morning workouts

While morning workouts have many upsides, it’s important to note that they also have disadvantages. Weigh these options when considering the best time of day for your workout.

  • It takes more time to get started – when you wake up, you’re low on energy, have a lower core body temperature, and have a slower heart rate. These factors mean you need to take more time to warm up to exercise safely.
  • You might interrupt your sleep cycle – while morning workouts can improve your sleep, it depends on the person. You might throw off your sleep cycle, resulting in fatigue and sleep inertia or grogginess. You can calculate your sleep cycle to determine your best exercise times.
How to get the most out of a morning workout

If morning workouts are the best option for you, they can be optimized in a few ways. If you’re already struggling with exercising earlier, why not make the most of it?

  • Eat a nutritious breakfast – since you have lower energy in the morning, make sure you eat before a workout. Try foods such as whole-grain cereals or bread, a banana, and yogurt. Look for foods that will fill you up but not weigh you down. The double-edged sword is that you need to wait after you’ve eaten before you exercise- it’s recommended that you wait one to two hours after you eat a meal to exercise or 30 to 60 minutes after you eat a snack.
  • Keep a schedule – one of the best ways to make something a habit is to maintain a schedule around it. Wake up at the same time and exercise at the same time. Do this at whatever frequency you wish but keep to that schedule.
  • Stretch – your body is just waking up, so don’t push it. Take at least five minutes to do basic stretches that warm up your body to prevent injury.

Although they may be harder to break into, morning workouts give you more bang for your buck. It’s essential, however, to choose which time of day is best for you. Weighing in factors like your diet and sleep cycle can help you decide on the right course of action.

Five Large Contributions Women Made in Healthcare

Did you know that today women make up 77.6 percent of the total healthcare workforce in the US? This field may have a strong female presence now, but it wasn’t always this way. In honor of National Women’s Day, we want to introduce you to five women whose contributions changed the face of the medical field. Each of these women in healthcare and science broke down barriers to champion equality, education, and the advancement of women in the workforce during a time when it was extremely unpopular to do so. Here are five contributions women made in healthcare that hugely impacted our world.

Alice Evans‘ Contribution Led to Safer Milk

The discovery of the bacterium responsible for undulant fever led to the practice of pasteurizing milk in the 1930s. We owe this to microbiologist Alice Evans. With no doctorate or medical degree to her name, she made waves in her community when microbiology was in its early stages. Because of her discovery, she became the first female president of the Society of American Bacteriologists.

Florence Seibert’s Contribution led to the First Tuberculosis Test

Biochemist Florence Seibert was responsible for this ground-breaking advancement. Tuberculosis (also known as consumption) had killed one in seven people that lived by the 19th century. This testing is still the standard today, and confirmed Tuberculosis is easily treated in almost all cases with a mix of antibiotics administered over six months. Even after retirement, she continued to research on a volunteer basis and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at age 90.

Dame Cicely Saunders’ Contribution was the Founding of Hospice

Although hospice-like care is believed to have been established in the 11th century during the Crusades, the modern-day hospice system has only existed since the 1960s. In 1963, British physician Dame Cicely Saunders gave a talk at Yale University about her ideas of specialized care for the dying. She worked with terminally ill patients in London for several years but didn’t open the first hospice ‘St. Christopher’s’ until 1967. Inspired by Seibert’s Yale visit, Dr. Florence Wald, Dean of the Yale School of Nursing, opened the first US hospice in Branford, Connecticut, in 1974. As of 2023, the US has 1,805 hospices and palliative care centers in the US. The centers are vital to end-of-life care and are instrumental in making a challenging situation for patients and their families easier.

Gertrude Elion’s Contribution Led to the Possibility of Organ Transplants

At age 15, Gertrude Elion witnessed her grandfather die painfully from stomach cancer. It was then she set out to pursue her life’s mission of alleviating suffering from medical conditions. Her greatest discovery came when she developed azathioprine, also known as Imuran. This discovery makes organ transplants possible; a procedure performed 3,636 times in the US in the past year. Elion’s work also pioneered a new era of antiviral therapy that opened the doors to the first drug discovered to treat AIDS. An illness that has killed an estimated 1 million people worldwide since the start of its epidemic.

Marie Curie’s Contribution was the Discovery of Radium and Polonium and Their Use in Cancer Treatments

Marie Curie is arguably one of the most famous women in scientific history. Still, many don’t know the specifics of her story. She and her husband, Pierre Curie, discovered radium and polonium and coined the term “radioactive.” Because of this work, she became the first woman to receive a doctorate degree in France. She and her husband provided radium for the first treatment known as “brachytherapy” in 1901. Shortly after, the famous Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center started the groundbreaking therapy in 1903. During World War I, she hid her radium research to create, with her daughter, hundreds of standing x-ray facilities in France to assist wounded soldiers on the frontlines. To this day, Curie is the only woman to have received two Nobel Prizes. Her contributions to cancer treatment are still used today, helping the estimated 1.9 million people diagnosed with cancer in the US in 2022 alone.

We are honored to celebrate these women in healthcare and science, their contributions, and the doors they opened for future generations. To learn about more women in healthcare that have helped pave the way, read our previous blog celebrating International Women’s Day!

Why Annual Physicals Are a Vital Preventative Care Element

With the new year already underway, are you thinking about your health? A Statista survey revealed that people are more likely to be health conscious around this time of the year, with “living healthier” being the number one resolution from 2022. If you plan to prioritize your health in 2023, consider involving your primary care physician. Getting a physical is a great way to help kick-start the new year. Annual physicals are also a vital part of preventative care and keeping tabs on your health, as many illnesses can go unnoticed. According to the CDC, six in ten adults in the US have a chronic disease, which are the leading causes of death and disability in the nation. During a physical, your doctor can run a few tests to rule out chronic illnesses or diseases that could cost you a lot of time and money if left untreated.

Top five questions to ask your doctor at a yearly check-up

Now that you’re planning an annual physical, will you ask the right questions? Your primary care physician will do most of the heavy lifting, but it’s essential that you also take charge in asking about your health. We talked with Healthcare2U’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Rodriguez, about the top five questions you should ask your doctor at your yearly check-up, here are his recommendations:

  1. Am I up to date on adult immunizations?
  2. What are my vital signs, and are they normal?
  3. Are my prescriptions still relevant?
  4. Is there anything I could do to better my health?
  5. Do I have any family medical history that puts me at risk for illnesses?

Bear in mind- these are just general questions that everyone should be asking. If you have preexisting conditions or are currently dealing with a medical issue during your check-up, you’ll want to ask specific questions related to your current health. However, the last thing you should do is self-diagnose; let a doctor handle your diagnosis.

How Healthcare2U’s DPC membership is a vital part of preventative care 

If you want an annual physical, you’ll probably need to use insurance. With varying insurance costs and steep out of pocket co-pays, it’s easy to see why so many people can’t access these yearly check-ups, as it can be difficult to afford such a high monthly payment. However, if you’re a member of Healthcare2U, there is an alternative option to primary care access that helps you receive the care you need.

Healthcare2U’s DPC membership focuses on prevention and caters to each member, so you have an ally in managing your health.

Healthcare2U’s Direct Primary Care (DPC) membership caters to you through affordable and easy-to-access primary medical care. Healthcare2U provides unlimited in-office primary and urgent care visits, 24/7/365 bilingual Virtual DPC, and chronic disease management for 13 disease states. Membership also includes an annual physical with four labs: (1) complete metabolic panel (CMP), (2) complete blood count (CBC), (3) thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and (4) lipid panel. By getting these annual tests, you’ll know more about your health and be able to make a plan with your doctor if you need further care.

Keep in mind, should these tests detect the beginning stages of a chronic disease* you’ll receive unlimited doctor visits for treating and managing that illness for just $10 per visit. Combined with our bilingual Patient Advocacy Line (PAL) and Virtual DPC, every member receives the guidance and care they need when they need it. Healthcare2U’s DPC membership focuses on prevention and caters to each member, so you have an ally in managing your health.

For more information on how the DPCplus membership can play a vital role in your preventative care, contact us or read more about our membership.

 

*Healthcare2U’s membership includes the detection, treatment and management of 13 chronic disease states within manageable ranges. Contact us to learn more.

Investing in Employee Benefits Education is Beneficial to Both Employees and Employers

Benefits education and direct primary care not only lower costs for self-funded groups but can result in a healthier workforce, more thoughtful benefits utilization, and improved retention. When employers actively encourage their employees to prioritize their health, they also foster a culture based on healthy living. This encouragement can result in better health outcomes for their employees and motivation to take ownership of their health.

By understanding their benefits and how to access them, employees are more likely to utilize them correctly. For example, an employee who doesn’t understand their coverage may delay medical care, resulting in an expensive serious illness. To empower employees, brokers can add navigation and advocacy services to a self-funded plan to guide employees through their coverages and memberships to help them select the proper care. The combination of benefits education and navigation services can lead to thoughtful utilization and prevention of unnecessary urgent care and emergency room visits, which in turn shields the claims reserve from unnecessary claims.

In addition to lower health costs, well-executed employee health programs can boost recruitment and retention efforts. A MetLife study found that 51 percent of employees who feel that their health is holistically considered were more likely to stay at their current organizations for at least one more year and would recommend their current company as a good place to work.

Free self-funded health plan infographic download image

Further enhance cost savings with direct primary care

Employees are empowered to make meaningful lifestyle changes by providing health and benefits education, which creates a domino effect that positively impacts costs, morale, recruitment, and retention. These results are enhanced when combined with additional services focused on preventative care, early detection, and chronic disease management — like direct primary care. Employees with unlimited access to primary care for an affordable monthly membership fee are more likely to establish care with a primary care physician. This affordable access encourages employees to take an active role in their health and manage preventable conditions before they manifest into something more serious. Employers also benefit from this arrangement, as their claims reserve is protected from the services provided within the DPC ecosystem.

A hybrid DPC solution that benefits all

With Healthcare2U’s DPC membership, members have unlimited nationwide access to affordable primary and urgent care, virtually or in-office, unlimited treatment and management of chronic diseases, and round-the-clock telehealth. Navigation and advocacy are also built into the membership, ensuring that members always have a bilingual certified medical professional to guide them through their benefits, care options, and appointments. This combination of benefits diverts primary, urgent, and early-stage chronic care away from the self-funded plan, allowing employers to reserve those funds for more costly claims. Employers also save on their stop-loss insurance.

Healthcare2U can be implemented in organizations of all sizes and structures at any time during the plan year. If you’d like more information about helping self-funded clients implement a direct primary care solution, contact Healthcare2U today.

Health Benefits Education and Direct Primary Care Can Lower Costs for Self-Funded Groups

Self-funded plans are a great way to offer customizable benefits that employees want and need while lowering healthcare costs. Most brokers agree that self-funding is in the best interest of their larger clients’ long-term strategies. However, 52 percent said their fully insured clients remain fully insured because of the perception there is too much risk in self-funding. This perceived risk stems from misunderstanding the self-funded strategy and stop-loss protection.

Free self-funded health plan infographic download image

A well-run self-funded health plan — that operates at the most efficient level and maximizes cost savings — requires buy-in from executive leadership, who understand the importance of expense management, employee education, continuous communication, and a preventive health strategy. By using claims data to create a unique benefits plan and educating employee populations about their personal health and employer-sponsored coverage, employers can shield the self-funded plan from costly claims and result in better health outcomes for their workforce.

The cost of preventable health conditions on a self-funded plan

As we continue to see healthcare costs increase, employers are relying on benefit advisors to help manage their expenses. Before deciding on a cost containment strategy for clients, it’s essential to understand the cost of preventable health conditions and employee claims data.

Preventable chronic conditions are a significant contributor to the costs of health insurance premiums and employee medical claims. Four of the costliest health conditions (and one-third of all deaths) are related to heart disease and stroke. These conditions cost our healthcare system $216 billion annually and cause $147 billion in lost productivity on the job. However, these conditions don’t materialize overnight and often result from years of poor health.

Since most costly health conditions are preventable, brokers should pair self-funded plans with preventative care services. One of the significant advantages of self-funded plans is that employers have the claims data to make informed decisions and the flexibility to combine and remove services that address the unique needs of their employees. However, preventative care and chronic disease related claims can slowly chip away at claims reserves, leaving little for more significant claims or enough to roll over into the following year. Including a product like Direct Primary Care (DPC), which provides unlimited primary care visits for a flat monthly fee, can help shield reserves from an entire category of claims by absorbing the costs of routine preventative care. This type of membership can also help employees who are dealing with a chronic disease by providing affordable visits and encouraging them to actively manage their health. By deflecting claims for preventative care and chronic disease management, plan costs are significantly lowered.

Disconnect in benefit offerings and understanding 

Brokers can help their clients create a perfect benefits plan. Still, the plan won’t deliver the desired results if the employees don’t understand the benefits terminology, how to access and utilize their benefits, or how their benefits impact their health.

survey conducted by LIMRA found that 53 percent of employees felt that their employer didn’t communicate their medical benefits well. This lack of understanding can result in the underutilization or misuse of benefits and frustration from employees. Brokers should encourage their clients to continuously communicate their benefit offerings throughout the year, using several channels to reach all employees. Communications should cater to each employee cohort and highlight what matters most to them. Usage examples can also help employees determine which benefits to use for specific situations.

In addition to benefits education, employees need to understand how their benefits impact their overall health, present and future. Multiple studies have confirmed that regular primary care visits result in better health over the long term, but few people go to regular visits. OnlineDoctor.com found that 1/3 of Americans avoid regular doctor appointments, citing insurance coverage and costs as a primary reason. Employers can address this issue by highlighting the costs of commonly used benefits and incentivizing employees to visit their Primary Care Provider (PCP). Beyond the doctor’s office, educational materials regarding chronic conditions and prevention should also be included in regular communications throughout the year, such as a monthly email campaign to employees.

In our next blog post, we will briefly discuss how employee benefits education is beneficial and critical to a self-funded health plan. Read further here.