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Study: Good Health Means Meeting Social Needs

posted by AHIP

on June 3, 2019

Study shows how social barriers impact inpatient and emergency room use

Another study has found that non-medical factors—including the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age—can have a big impact on a person’s health. From economic stability and education to access to healthy foods and reliable transportation, these social factors can influence someone’s ability to effectively manage their health and get the right care when they need it.

In a report by McKinsey & Company, patients shared how unmet social needs impact their care quality, health status, and use of care services.

Access to healthy foods, for example, is central to good health and healing. Yet 35% of respondents experienced food insecurity. Unsurprisingly, those same people were more than twice as likely to have multiple emergency room visits over a 12-month period.

It’s smart to make investments that address social needs such as housing stability, food security, and safe communities. And that’s why health insurance providers are investing in  benefits and programs that meet their members where they live, work, and play to overcome social barriers that can keep them from thriving.

The McKinsey survey also found that 85% of people who reported more than one social need said they would be interested in offerings from their health insurance provider.   And regardless of social needs:

  • 50% would use discounts at grocery stores that specialize in healthy foods
  • 48% would use free memberships at local gyms
  • 40% would use a drop-in care clinic at lower or no cost during evenings and weekends

Discounts on groceries or gym memberships are just some of the ways health insurance providers are working to help people, families, and communities get healthier faster and stay healthier longer.

Medicare Advantage plans, for example,  increasingly offer supplemental benefits such as nicotine replacement therapy, adult day care to combat social isolation, transportation to appointments (sometimes through a ride-sharing partnership), and even nutrition counseling or alternative therapies such as chiropractic care or acupuncture.

As the health care industry gains a better understanding of the full spectrum of people’s health needs, and as consumers become more engaged with health and wellness, health insurance providers are creating solutions to address social determinants of health. By improving the health of our communities, we can improve the health of individual people.