OPM has told FEHB carriers that “too few” enrollees are participating in health risk screening and wellness activities despite years of encouragement and that carriers should try to increase participation, such as through financial incentives. OPM for years has been emphasizing such programs in annual “call letters” that set terms for the following year’s coverage, including in the recent letter for the 2017 plan year–the annual conference between OPM and the carriers that kicks off negotiations over premiums and coverage terms starts tomorrow (March 31). OPM reminded the companies that they may offer incentives for enrollees to participate in screening activities or to adopt healthy behaviors, in the form of cash or gift cards, or rebates for the purchase of health related goods or services. Pointing to research concluding that health plans with “robust incentives see higher participation rates” it said they “may wish to revise incentives for wellness programs in future benefit proposals.” OPM further told carriers to increase the percentage of enrollees completing health risk assessments each year and asked them for data on those programs; reminded them of OPM’s policy that most adults must have biometric screening for current or potential conditions such as high blood pressure at least once every three years and said that it will monitor compliance; and said that the results of assessments and screenings should be used to initiate referrals to health coaching or other plan sponsored programs. It also urged carriers to continue to stress programs such as diabetes prevention, obesity management and tobacco cessation. “We urge all plans to emphasize the importance of screening in targeted communications with members. An annual wellness/preventive care visit or annual physical is also an ideal opportunity to incorporate education and screening activities; therefore we encourage you to incorporate your FEHB wellness benefits in your provider education efforts,” OPM added.
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