As part of an ongoing commitment to improving the health and well-being of its members and the community, Independent Health today announced it will begin offering them name-brand vitamins, supplements and other natural products at competitive prices via an online store effective immediately.
Thomas Foels, M.D., medical director at Independent Health, said there is growing evidence within the medical community regarding the many positive benefits of taking supplements, ranging from multivitamins, calcium and vitamin D, to omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, probiotics and zinc. He said such products are an important component of healthy living currently being embraced by approximately 150 million Americans and nearly 9 out of 10 (89 percent) of the health plan's members.
"We are excited that our members are increasingly making proactive lifestyle choices and we intend to support their efforts by providing quality products and credible, third-party information about the benefits, risks and usage of these products," Dr. Foels said. "We believe that by making positive lifestyle choices such as eating better, exercising and taking the right vitamins or supplements in the right amounts, our members can reduce their risk of certain diseases and achieve optimal health."
According to Dr. Foels, the new product offering is consistent with other initiatives underway at Independent Health designed to engage members in activities to improve their health and change the health care paradigm, making it a more proactive and collaborative effort. "Consumers are increasingly embracing vitamins and supplements along with other positive lifestyle changes to prevent illnesses and encourage wellness as part of a more holistic approach to their health. These products complement Independent Health's wellness programs and other services that empower people to embrace healthier lifestyles," Dr. Foels said.
The products will be available at www.yournaturaloptions.com through Lighthouse Naturals, LLC, a company headquartered in North Palm Beach, Fla. Lighthouse Naturals is a subsidiary of Independent Health Corporation, which in turn is a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of Independent Health. Pharmacy Benefits Dimensions, Independent Health's successful pharmacy benefit management (PBM) service, is also a for-profit subsidiary.
"With so many people now essentially 'self medicating' it is important to have a strong, credible voice like Independent Health available to assist consumers in making responsible decisions regarding these products," said Susan Trimbo, Ph.D, a member of Lighthouse's Board of Managers and head of its Product Advisory Board. "All products being offered will undergo extensive information-gathering and analysis, and product manufacturers must comply with current good manufacturing practices," Dr. Trimbo said. The Product Advisory Board is comprised of community physicians, pharmacists and nutrition industry professionals and will review all products and vendors before they are offered to consumers in an effort to ensure that the highest-quality products are being made available.
According to Mark Johnson, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Independent Health, investing in a vitamin, supplement and natural products business allows Independent Health to support its members and others by making these products available at lower prices, thus encouraging greater use. It also extends the company's business beyond Western New York to reach consumers nationally.
"Independent Health has a responsibility to conduct its business for long-term success; therefore, it must evaluate every opportunity to sustain, grow and diversify the business," Johnson said. "One way to do this is to make strategic investments in companies like Lighthouse Naturals. Such investments have short-term advantages such as supporting our members' positive lifestyle choices, but there is also a focus on their potential positive impact on the company's ongoing success."
Mark M. Kamp, president of Lighthouse Naturals, said he believes Independent Health's investment in 2008 represents the first time a health insurer has been directly involved in this space. "It is hoped that Independent Health and Lighthouse Naturals will be able to replicate this model with other health plans in the U.S., improving the health of millions of Americans while providing an additional source of revenue," said Kamp.
Headquartered in Buffalo, Independent Health began operations in 1980 and has consistently been rated among the top health plans in the country for customer service and member satisfaction. Independent Health's comprehensive portfolio of product and service offerings include HMO, POS, PPO and EPO products, Medicare and Medicaid plans, traditional indemnity insurance, consumer-directed plans, coverage for self-funded employers, plus health savings account (HSA) and pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services.
Independent Health's extensive provider networks include more than 846,000 physicians, 3,700 hospitals, and 53,000 pharmacies nationally. Combined, the company provides health benefits and services to nearly 375,000 individuals in Western New York and throughout the country. For more information, visit Independent Health's website at www.independenthealth.com.