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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

Could insurers get Grandma Wi-Fi?

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Think of all of the older people who are hard of hearing and lack lights that flash when the doorbell rings.

And think of all of the older people who love the news but lack Internet access, simply because they and their loved ones lack the knowhow to set up an Internet connection.

Policy planners at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) talk about strategies for increasing using of “aging services technology” (AST) in a new report.

The planners discuss the AST systems that are available, or could be available, to help older people and younger people with disabilities with concerns such as managing heart disease or depression, coping with sensory impairments, and making up for cognitive impairments.

“An important barrier is the widespread lack of awareness of ASTs, which results in underutilization among consumers, caregivers, and providers,” the consultants said in the report.

In some cases, older people may have trouble getting government health insurers, private health insurers or long-term care insurance (LTCI) carriers to pay for the AST systems, and, in other cases, use may be limited by concerns about effectiveness, privacy, security, usability and liability issues, the consultants said.

In some cases, promoting use of AST could help private insurers, by, for example, reducing the likelihood that insureds will end up filing claims for long-term care (LTC) services, the consultants said.

“Payers, including private health plans and long-term care insurance [plans], are in a unique position to foster partnerships with providers, technology companies, and academia to evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these technologies and technology-enabled interventions,” the consultants said.

Insurers or other organizations also could consider creating low-cost insurance programs designed specifically to pay for home-based AST systems that could help keep older people in their homes, the consultants said.

The consultants said large employers could promote AST by encouraging their acute health coverage providers to offer telehealth benefits or benefits for other health-related technology products and services.

“Employers could also potentially negotiate discounts with pre-screened technologies or services as part of their employee benefits packages,” the consultants said. “These types of approaches would result in increased demand for ASTs, which in turn would encourage more investment and development.”


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