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Building Healthy Communities

by AHIP

March 14, 2019

Our health and well-being are influenced by more than just the care we receive at the doctor’s office. Disparities in access to healthy food, quality housing, safe neighborhoods, education, and job training all have an impact on our health. In fact, we now know that up to 80 percent of a patient’s health is determined by non-clinical factors known as the social determinants of health—the social and financial factors that impact well-being.

Health insurance providers are determined to address health disparities that stem from environmental and social factors. They are introducing innovative, multi-faceted initiatives that build up their communities, providing affordable housing, food services, and coordinating care to make sure that everyone can be the healthiest version of themselves.

Housing security is a crucial health issue for vulnerable populations, and health insurance providers are working to establish more affordable housing. For example, Kaiser Permanente , an Oakland, California-based health care organization, is renovating a 41-unit apartment complex in Oakland as part of a $200 million initiative to reduce homelessness. Additionally, Kaiser Permanente unveiled a $100 million national loan fund to create and preserve multi-family homes throughout Oakland, as well as plans to address homelessness for people over the age of 50 who have at least one chronic condition.

Improving overall health also means making it easier and more affordable to eat healthy. UCare, an independent, nonprofit health insurance provider, is expanding its Healthy Savings program in Minnesota and parts of western Wisconsin. UCare will help members save up to $200 per month on healthier foods and beverages, including fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and more.

Health insurance providers are also helping local health care organizations work together to deliver better care at a lower price. Health care is complex, and when community and health care organizations join forces, they often face barriers to collaboration like different terminology, dissimilar funding structures, administrative complexity, a lack of payment arrangements, and capacity limitations. Health insurance providers are bridging this gap. For example, Centene recently formed the Social Health Bridge Trust, which will work across the health care system with physicians, hospital systems, accountable care organizations, payers, and health departments to simplify and accelerate the local partnerships needed to meaningfully and sustainably tackle the social determinants of health.

Health insurance providers are fighting every day for lower health care costs and better care, negotiating on behalf of patients with doctors, hospitals, and drug companies. Today, we know that health care takes place outside the doctor’s office and beyond the pharmacy line. That’s why insurance providers are investing in their communities to help make them a better place to live.