Aetna offers small businesses plan with no co-pay for preventive visits

The plan is designed to provide incentives for staying healthy. However, emergency department care deductibles could triple.

By Bob Cook — Posted July 23, 2009

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Aetna is offering a new health plan for small businesses that would allow beneficiaries to pay nothing for preventive visits -- something routinely offered in high-deductible plans, but not so common otherwise.

Beginning next year, the company said, it will begin rolling out the new plan, geared toward businesses with two to 50 employees. Aetna said the plan would eliminate the co-pay for well-child visits, vision care, and routine physicals and ob-gyn exams without raising premiums.

Unlike under high-deductible plans, the beneficiaries would not have to pay for the first $1,000 or so worth of coverage to get free preventive visits. The company said the plan is designed to help small businesses keep employees healthy and their health costs down.

However, Aetna said that in some cases the new plan does increase the beneficiaries' share of sick care to help offset the lack of a deductible for well care. For example, it said, emergency department care deductibles could go from $50 to $150.

No other major publicly traded insurer has announced a similar plan. But in recent months many companies have tried to tweak plans to make them more affordable to small businesses and individuals in the face of health reform coming out of Washington and statistics showing the number of uninsured Americans heading toward 50 million.

For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida is expanding the availability of its BlueSelect plan, which the company describes as a low-cost program targeted to uninsured or laid-off workers.

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