ShareThis Page
Business

Insurer puts focus on prevention

| Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2003

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is hoping Pittsburghers will trade in a lunchtime frozen yogurt for a midday yoga class.

The country's ninth-largest health insurer opened a HealthPlace location in the ground floor of the former Hornes Department Store building, Downtown, on Monday. In addition to a Highmark employee fitness center, the facility offers wellness programs and health screenings to Highmark members, underscoring a shift in the health care and insurance industry to focus on containing costs through prevention.

"It seeks to reduce community disease levels, rather than waiting for people to become patients," said Dr. Brad Pifalo, vice president of Highmark's HealthPlace division. "Fewer than 5 percent of health care spending in this nation is spent on public health, and only a fraction of that is spent on wellness."

In addition to yoga classes, the facility offers a variety of wellness programs, including nutrition counseling, flu shots, blood pressure and cholesterol screening and a video and book lending library. Non-Highmark members can use the facility for a fee. Highmark also built public bike racks in the building's facade, hoping to increase ridership among commuters and Downtown visitors.

The new facility replaces HealthPlace's former location on the third floor of Fifth Avenue Place, giving the program more visibility and filling a void in the Downtown development scheme that has existed since the Old Navy retail store vacated the space in January.

"For 15 years, we've operated HealthPlace on the third floor, but this gives us more visibility," said Dr. Ken Melani, president and chief executive of Highmark. "Something much more important (than the renovation) is happening today. This is all about Highmark's commitment to the community to make it a better place to live and work."

Melani cited studies that show wellness and prevention reduce health insurance costs, which have posted double-digit gains in recent years. In surveys of its own employees beginning five years ago, Highmark found that 70 percent need to exercise and more than 50 percent were above their recommended weight.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me