MONEY

Cutting health care’s cost

These Money heroes — one in the halls of government, the other on Houston’s freeways — aim to ease the financial pain of medical treatment.

  • Keeping coverage affordable

    Mila Kofman, 4
    2
    Insurance pro and consumer
    advocate

    As Maine’s superintendent of insurance from 2008 to 2011, Kofman limited rate hikes by the state’s largest health insurer.

    Her reviews included uncommon citizen involvement — one move: giving consumer groups funds for actuaries to analyze company filings — and provided a model for other states.

    Kofman, an attorney, traces her zeal to watching a relative struggle to pay for insurance after being injured in a car accident. She now heads a Washington, D.C., health exchange, opening next fall, that will help individuals and small businesses get affordable coverage.

    “I’ve always been interested in how we finance health care. People die because they can’t afford coverage,” said Kofman.

  • Offering rides and friendship

    Claudia Burch, 63

    Retired attorney and volunteer driver

    Over the past four years Burch has logged nearly 20,000 miles as one of the busiest drivers for Houston Ground Angels, a group providing free local transportation for people traveling to the city for medical care.

    The retired lawyer does more than save patients from $75 airport taxi rides; she’s taken them shopping and out for dinner, and even housed them.

    Keenly aware of the stress patients face in their travels, Burch says her mission isn’t just financial: It’s assuring people that a caring person is there to help them.

    “Getting a ride is a small piece of what these people are going through, but I don’t think it’s small to them,” said Burch.

  • Making fitness pay

    Company wellness programs are shifting from offering incentives to employees for simply signing up to rewarding — or punishing — staffers based on measurable results. What you need to know:

    They’re upping the ante. One in four companies with a wellness program now makes financial rewards contingent on hitting targets for blood pressure, body mass index, and similar readings, reports Aon Hewitt.

    Qualifying may be tougher, but rewards are getting sweeter: Nearly one in five offer monetary incentives worth more than $500.

    Trying counts. Many wellness programs reward improvement even if you fall short of the goals. Last year, for instance, employees in Cleveland Clinic’s wellness program who didn’t hit their targets saw a 9% hike in health premiums vs. 21% for employees who didn’t enroll.

    You can change the rules. If you feel that your employer’s preset benchmarks aren’t right for you, work with your physician to come up with appropriate measures for your health status. Then bring that to your benefits department. By law, your employer must work out a reasonable alternative or offer a waiver.

    – Walecia Konrad

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