Insurance lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans launched an initiative on Thursday to spark collaboration among health insurers to address the social factors that affect patients' health.
The initiative—called Project Link—represents the health insurance industry's "commitment to addressing social determinants of health and how we can make a really important difference," AHIP CEO Matt Eyles told reporters at the annual AHIP Institute & Expo in Nashville, Tenn.
Project Link is meant to build on the social determinants-related work that health plans have been doing independently for the last several years. It involves a learning collaborative to bring health insurers together to discuss best practices and lessons learned in addressing social barriers to healthcare, such as housing insecurity, lack of transportation and poor nutrition.
AHIP aims to have health plan members meet regularly to delve into different issues, from developing a social determinants business case to discussing state and federal red tape that could complicate some interventions. It will showcase the latest research and case studies related to addressing social determinants on the Project Link website.
"This work is not easy. So providing a forum for our members to come together and talk through how they set up these (social determinant) programs, what they're tracking, how they know if something is successful, I think will really provide an opportunity for the industry to move forward and think about this strategically," said Rashi Venkataraman, AHIP's executive director of prevention and population health.
AHIP hopes the initiative will result in new partnerships between health insurers and companies outside of the healthcare space to address social factors that can harm health. It also plans to use Project Link as a foundation to develop its research and policy agenda on the topic over the next one to two years.
The insurance industry increasingly has focused on the social and environmental factors that may have a bigger impact on a person's health than medical care. Eyles said about 20 sessions at the AHIP Institute this year revolve around social determinants of health. Last year's conference was also dominated by the subject.
AHIP isn't the only insurance lobbying group paying attention. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association last year launched its own initiative to improve access to transportation, healthy food and pharmacies in a sustainable, scalable way by making social determinants a routine part of healthcare delivery.