January 2, 2020

ELCA Health Plan Takes Another Evolutionary Step

Portico’s 2020 Live Well invitation represents an important next step in the evolution of its wellness approach to health benefits. This year’s new benefits help members access quality health care more easily and cost-effectively, personalize their wellness journeys, and find new ways to lead resilient, healthy lives throughout all dimensions of the Wholeness Wheel.

Toward More Personalized Learning, Intrinsic Rewards

The Wholeness Wheel is used by many ELCA individuals and organizations as a learning and discernment tool.

Portico carries on a 200+ year Lutheran legacy of serving those who serve. Its enduring mission is to help members live well holistically around the Wholeness Wheel. That’s why, in 2007, amidst ELCA concern for the health of its church workers and the financial impact of rapidly increasing health care costs, Portico introduced its first “wellness” plan to ELCA-Primary health plan members.

To encourage participation, Portico offered generous financial incentives, and members responded. Between 2008 – 2016, more than 75% of members completed an annual health assessment, and hundreds of individuals inspired the community with transformative stories of change.

But in recent years, Portico recognized — along with the rest of the wellness industry — the limitations of financial incentives to create more lasting change in the lives of our members. In 2017, Portico started to invest in new cost-effective wellness benefits designed to help members define and pursue their own wellness goals. These included offerings like Livongo, which supports better diabetes management, and the Omada program, which helps members prevent diabetes and other chronic conditions.

As Portico’s wellness offerings grow, the goal remains constant: Help members live healthy lives and use health care wisely. To accomplish this, Portico continues to invite members to take stock of their health status, set their own wellness goals, make the most of their benefits, use them cost-effectively, and establish healthy lifestyle habits.

“While extrinsic incentives helped us attract attention to the importance of wellness,” said Rev. Jeff Thiemann, Portico’s president and CEO, “it’s far more important that people identify their own wellness-related needs, take action for their own reasons, enhance their well-being, and reap their own intrinsic rewards. The personalized benefits we offer today represent a more meaningful, cost-effective investment in the health and well-being of those we serve.”

New 2020 Benefits Tap Latest Technology Solutions

“We’ve been on the hunt for effective, trailblazing wellness programs,” said Josh Smith, leader of Portico’s product team. “We’ve done significant research — listening to member feedback, studying our claims data, identifying new solutions, and collaborating with innovative vendors — to find and offer modern wellness benefits that can more meaningfully help members toward healthier lives.”

This year’s Live Well invitation represents another important step forward, offering members easier ways to access quality health care, personalize their wellness journeys, and live more confident, resilient, healthy lives. In early January, ELCA-Primary health plan members can begin to explore the following new benefits:

  • Being is a cutting-edge, holistic, faith-based, video learning platform, the product of a collaboration between Portico and The Big Know, a tech-based education innovator. The Being platform features wellness courses taught by entertaining, nationally-recognized experts — including financial living with Chris Farrell, resiliency with Jenny Evans, and cooking with Andrew Zimmern. It also offers Portico-customized courses — including a course on gratitude and spiritual recharging led by religion and culture scholar, Diana Butler Bass, and a course on vocational well-being offered later in 2020 featuring ELCA rostered ministers who have found ways to avoid burnout and grow as spiritual leaders. New courses will be added regularly, and members are free to follow their interests throughout year, without ties to wellness dollars.
  • Learn to Live is an online, self-directed mental health program based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that studies show can be as effective as in-office therapy. This program can help participants improve emotional resilience and better cope with stress, depression, social anxiety, insomnia, and substance use — in the privacy of their own home.
  • 98point6 is an app that delivers 24/7 text-based primary care services for well below the cost of an in-person office visit — $0 for members with Platinum+ or Gold+ coverage and just $5 for those with Silver+ or Bronze+. The app connects members from anywhere in the U.S. via text and video with board-certified physicians who can diagnose, recommend treatment, and prescribe medication (except controlled medications) anywhere in the U.S. — no appointment required.

Members and spouses with ELCA-Primary health benefits will also be able to earn $200 wellness dollars each in 2020 by completing a biometric screening which provides them with objective insights about their physical health, and exploring a financial topic of their choice in ways described on myPortico.

“The power of the Being and Learn to Live programs is that they teach skills members can apply to their own lives,” said Smith. “As the Wholeness Wheel demonstrates, all aspects of well-being are interconnected. Your vocational well-being, for example, could have direct impact on your emotional and physical well-being. These new benefits, along with 98point6, employ some of the best research available to help members discern and address the areas of well-being most in need of their attention.”

How ELCA-Primary Health Benefits Balance Quality & Cost

While Portico maintains competitive rates by investing in innovative, wellness-oriented benefits, many employer health plans shift costs to members — by reducing benefits, limiting provider networks, and increasing premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

“As the ELCA’s benefit ministry,” Smith explained, “we don’t offer a typical health plan. Portico is called to care for the total well-being of those who serve in the ELCA. We analyze the needs of our community and offer a set of benefits designed specifically to help our members shape healthier lives.”

Together with new 2020 benefits, Portico’s existing ELCA-Primary health benefits help members seek care and explore their well-being as cost-effectively as possible:

  • Portico Care Coordinators by Quantum Health engage members early and often to help them save time, purchase health care more cost-effectively, and achieve healthier outcomes.
  • The Omada and Livongo personalized health management programs help eligible members with, or at risk for, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (the most prevalent chronic conditions in Portico’s membership) take steps to avoid or better manage their condition.
  • Quest biometric screening gives members an objective, robust view of their health status — and provides Portico with an updated aggregate view of our membership’s current health risks.

“It’s important to note that our health plan membership is older than average and likely to have higher than average care costs,” continued Smith. “We know we’re finding the right balance of quality and costs when our members tell us they’re satisfied with their care and the cost of that care comes in at or below the average for large national employer plans. With three years of data now in, we can see that our members are engaging with these benefits, having positive health outcomes, and feeling satisfied with their benefit experience — all while helping to rein in health care costs for themselves and the ELCA health plan.”

ELCA-Primary health plan members can learn more about the 2020 Live Well invitation and all their benefits online at myPortico.