Healthy Progress Health New England Earns National Top-10 Ranking

Health plans are increasingly stressing — and putting a dollar value on — preventative care. Springfield-based Health New England has been touting its programs in that vein for years.

The two trends came together recently in the pages of U.S. News and World Report, which ranked HNE ninth in its annual report on the top 250 health plans in the U.S.

Each year the magazine works with the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) to determine the rankings. Health plans are rated on a variety of measures, including access to care and service, overall member satisfaction, preventative care, and overall quality.

Peter Straley, president and CEO of Health New England, said this is the highest ranking his company has ever achieved. “This is an example of how a small plan like HNE can have a big impact, even on a national level,” he said.

The experts who assembled the rankings put a premium on preventative health, and the magazine focused its feature article accompanying the listings on programs that support general wellness, from discounted gym memberships and free cholesterol screenings to small perks for quitting smoking, losing weight, or reaching other health goals.

It was in this area that Health New England particularly shone on the U.S. News and World Report ranking, earning the maximum score of 5 in the category of prevention. Within the category, HNE’s programs promoting preventative health for children and adolescents scored the maximum 5 points, as did those for women’s reproductive health. The health plan’s programs for cancer prevention and the timely immunization of children and adolescents both scored 4 out of 5.

“We’re proud to have this independent affirmation of those very things that we believe set us apart,” Straley told The Healthcare News. “And those are the things that touch our members most directly, the way the health plan reaches out and engages our members.”

Specifically, he mentioned the postcards HNE sends to members on their birthdays reminding them of key health screenings people of their age and gender should undergo. “In this busy world, we don’t assume that people remember those things; they have a lot of their plates. So we try to reach out.”

Similarly, “if you or your child has asthma, we’re going to reach out to you with a phone call or letter and suggest ways we can help you manage that condition so you can have the highest quality of life possible given that condition,” Straley added.

Meanwhile, the report also ranked HNE highly in the category of treatment, particularly its coverage of diabetes, heart disease, and behavioral health treatment, all of which scored the maximum 5 points. Straley noted that the health plan employs nurses whose only job is to reach out to members with chronic conditions to help them manage their condition, medications, and other treatment.

“We want to touch our members directly, reach out to them with something that surprises them and says we’re willing to invest in their health,” he said.

Health New England has served Western Mass. since 1985 and now boasts more than 100,000 members and about 5,000 employers in the network. HNE employs more than 200 people at its offices in Springfield and Pittsfield, and its service area covers Franklin, Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, and parts of Worcester counties.

The Health New England listing, detailing how the plan scored in every category and subcategory, can be accessed at www.usnews.com/listings/health-plans/ commercial/health_new_england.

New England-based health plans dominated the rankings, placing eight plans on the top 10, with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care topping the list.

Other locals in the top 10 included Tufts Associated HMO (#2), Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England (#3), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass. (#4), ConnectiCare (#5), HealthNet of Conn. (#6), and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Conn. (#10).