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jsc3791's avatar

What would make a health benefits plan green?

Asked by jsc3791 (1973 points ) October 7th, 2008

It is easy to think of ways to make product design sustainable, but how about making an intangible product “green.”

Specifically, what would make a health benefits plan green to you?

Say you have XYZ Medical Insurance. When told it is an environmentally friendly, green plan, what would that mean to you?

I am looking to the Fluther community for ideas beyond just reducing paper communications, etc.

What would make you buy into the fact that it is actually “green” and therefore good for you and the environment?

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17 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Maybe you could use green ink?

kevbo's avatar

I’ve worked for an HMO and their parent delivery system for 5–6 years. Honestly, I don’t think “green” is a selling point right now. Green is something you add after you bring down costs and improve quality to a point that people aren’t feeling like they’re being held hostage by the healthcare system. The best you can do on that front, I believe is to provide affordable preventive care and comprehensive acute care coverage (plus behavioral, etc). Wellness benefits (massage, chiro, acupuncture) might also slide into the “green” category. Also, give your members internet tools to utilize benefits, access account, etc.

Instead, I would make it more of an internally focused plan to recruit and retain better employees. Purchase wind power instead of coal. Institute “green” best practices for offices—such all encompassing recycle and shredding (to comply with HIPAA), green modifications to office buildings or spaces and pass whatever administrative overhead savings on to customers.

Beyond that, I suppose a plan could adopt some kind of green offset project- planting trees or whatever—something that ties in with improving health. The mission of the org I worked for was “improving the health of individuals, families and communities.” They struggled with the meaning of improving the health of a community (other than vaccines and HEDIS type stuff). Perhaps implementing green projects that improve wellness is a start.

All that said, I doubt it will move customers in your direction if costs aren’t equitable, and I believe you risk alienating customers if they are paying extra for a green plan. So go green for employees, and go quality for customers.

Moreover, take that brainpower and focus on collaborative efforts to cover the uninsured in your state.

wundayatta's avatar

For me it would mean they use less paper; use recycled paper; work in a highly energy-efficient building; and use health promotion policies that involve eating locally grown produce (perhaps a discount for food from approved CSAs); and discounts for bicycle commuters. (You’d need to have employers verify the commute, I guess).

Your panel of providers would emphasize those practitioners who were very effective at prevention, and who promoted the programs above (local food and exercise). You would support low impact providers that can avoid more expensive, energy-hogging services, such as acupuncturists, herbalists, massage therapists, yoga and meditation classes, and chiropractors. You’d encourage participation in dance workshops, and perhaps other artistic pursuits that make people happier, and consequently promote health and reduce depression.

Ok, enough for now.

kevbo's avatar

@daloon, GA

wundayatta's avatar

@keybo, thanks. Actually, you deserve some of the credit for sparking the train of thought. GA to you, too!

jsc3791's avatar

@kevbo and daloon: great suggestions! thanks for contributing to my stream of conciousness…

= )

wundayatta's avatar

@isc: what are you working on?

jsc3791's avatar

i am working on developing some ideas about green product design, specifically related to health plans. i am trying to brainstorm ideas that are green, as well as help healthcare consumers.

for example, if you elect to receive your communications electronically rather than in print, we will take the money saved and deposit it into your health savings account.

wundayatta's avatar

Ick! I take my ideas back. HSA’s are the worst fraud in health care history!

jsc3791's avatar

I just made that up about the HSA as an example. I have nothing yet – am still just brainstorming ideas and I thought – what smarter people to ask than the Fluther community?!

squirbel's avatar

Health insurance for trees.

jsc3791's avatar

What about planting a tree in a national forest or local community park if you opt out of receiving paper communications?

wundayatta's avatar

Again, isc, is this like a class assignment? Or a real assignment? If it is an assignment, then what, exactly, is the assignment? Is this a marketing campaign? Or is it trying to find a way to both position and market a hypothetical product? I mean, why are you making up the product and the campaign?

fireside's avatar

I don’t know, HSAs seem like they have potential.

Obviously they are not a mature offering yet so the few out there don’t look too appealing, but given the right approach they could be of great value. Especially if you can get the unused funds to roll over into an IRA or similar long term investment vehicle..

jsc3791's avatar

@daloon: this is a real assignment. it is completely vague and open. the only direction is to create a green health benefits plan and subsequently the marketing campaign for it.

wundayatta's avatar

@isc, ah. Well you might as well include single payer with it. That’s green in the sense that it is least expensive, and it covers everyone. You could impact the entire nation that way. Running the national health insurance program. Wow! The Green National Health Insurance Program. GNHIP. How about G-HIP. Or maybe come up with a much more catchy name that might help people get over their irrational ideas about insurance being socialism.

fireside's avatar

lol – i like g-hip

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