Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan will begin offering wellness center benefits to employer-sponsored health plans as part of a partnership with Premise Health.
The partnership, announced Wednesday, will allow employers with Michigan Blues health plans to include Premise Health services to its benefits package. Premise Health is a company that works directly with employers to stand up health and wellness centers, typically building on-site clinics that offer services such as primary care, behavioral health and physical therapy to employees, usually at a discounted price.
Michigan Blues saw an opportunity to partner with Premise after seeing some of its large employer customers strike deals on their own with wellness companies to offer new benefits to employees, said Dr. Aaron Friedkin, senior vice president of market solutions at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan.
Offering wellness benefits — especially among large employers — has become increasingly popular despite some evidence questioning its effectiveness. There have also been concerns about how employers use the health data from wellness programs and if it breaches privacy.
The partnership with Premise will allow employers with Michigan Blues health plans to process the use of services from Premise as a claim. The health plan can then share the data from that claim with the employer and Premise to help them understand the conditions impacting employees and what wellness strategies are best to invest in. The Blues plan also has data from its own care management and well-being programs it can share with Premise and the employer.
"That exchange of data back and forth is really important," Friedkin said.
Employers will still be able to enter into agreements with wellness companies other than Premise.
Premise currently partners with more than 2,200 employers in the U.S. and operates more than 800 on-site or near-site wellness centers including 11 in Michigan. Premise also offers wellness services virtually.
The cost of Premise services for employees depends on the employer's negotiated contract with Premise but Dr. Jami Doucette, Premise's president, said there are no costs for many members to access services or a "small" flat fee such as $10 or $20 per visit.
Friedkin said he expects large employers will be initially interested in the partnership with Premise because it's an expense to build these wellness centers. But he added in the future small employers may begin to partner and stand up wellness centers together so they can offer such benefits to their employees too.
Friedkin couldn't provide how many employers contract with Michigan Blues on health insurance but they are the largest carrier in the state. The health plan insurers about 4.7 million members.