Consumer-centric health care begins with (what else?) the consumer. On an obvious level, this means choosing the right health insurance plan, knowing its benefits and limitations, and being aware of how it works best. It also means keeping the line of communication between yourself and your providers (doctors, pharmacists, specialists, etc) open, and not being afraid to ask a lot of questions.
But sometimes, the world of health care can be a frustrating set of numbers, codes and phone numbers (and even, sometimes, actual human beings). Wouldn't it be nice to have someone on your side who knows how to navigate the maze that is health care?
That's the premise behind Assurant's new initiative: Patient Care. Well, actually, it's not Assurant's initiative per se: they're making available a "new" service called Patient Care. The company itself was started in 2001, and bills itself as "an independent advocacy company whose sole purpose is to resolve a healthcare problem or assist a member with health insurance and benefit issues." One can avail oneself of PC's services for the (ahem) "modest" fee of $1,000 (or up to $3,000 for a family).
Or, one could simply purchase a new Assurant major med plan, and it's a freebie. Not a bad deal.
This is the latest in what appears to be a wave of new "value added" services that carriers are pushing to help differentiate themselves (and their products) in an increasingly homogenous-looking market. We saw it recently in Companion Life's new "medical tourism" benefit, and I'm sure we'll see it in other forms, from other carriers, in the near future.
While I still maintain that choosing the right product design in the first place is more important than these little "gimmies," they do help with brand identification and, perhaps, as an added incentive to purchase.