As travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, UnitedHealthcare has recently introduced a set of three travel protection plans called SafeTrip, which offer healthcare insurance and trip cancellation coverage for Americans.

The first travel plan is International Travel Medical, which provides insurance coverage in the case of an accident or illness while traveling. Through this plan, Americans have access to care coordination services, evacuation support and a network for more than 1.7 million care providers and 176,000 clinics, hospitals or healthcare facilities in 180 countries. They can also use virtual care services or connect with the Emergency Response Center for non-medical problems.

Another plan available to Americans is Travel Protection. This plan offers coverage for unexpected flight changes, such as interruptions, delays or cancellations. It can also cover loss of baggage or added costs for pet care if a person’s flight is delayed.

Lastly, there is International Travel Medical Plus, which is a combination of International Travel Medical and Travel Protection.

“What [these plans] do is if you’re traveling — especially away from home overseas and become ill — they provide you with a degree of security and comfort knowing that you’re going to be taken care of,” said Dr. Amit Arwindekar, medical director for North America, in an interview.

The travel plans are available for all Americans, not just UnitedHealthcare members, Arwindekar said. Average premiums range between $80 to $150 depending on the plan selected, trip length, trip cost, state of residence and age of travelers.

While UnitedHealthcare offered travel plans in the past, the new offerings are improved versions following changes to travel due to Covid-19.

“We wanted to include more benefits that are important to people who are traveling, things like trip cancellation, especially in the era of Covid,” Arwindekar said. “We realized trips were getting canceled because of health concerns. People have become much more diligent about their health … The plans include better benefits for travel, better benefits for trip cancellation, better benefits for better coverage of medical issues when you’re traveling.”

Arwindekar added that he hopes these plans offer Americans a sense of security when they’re traveling to an unfamiliar place.

“What we’ve seen over the last 12 months or so is that people want to get back out there and travel,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of people go on these trips, but they don’t understand what the healthcare system is like where they’re going … We’ve seen so many cases where people get sick either with something they’ve had before or an unexpected accident happens and these stories become really heartbreaking.”

Photo: izzetugutmen, Getty Images

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One of the main barriers to accessing hearing care is affordability, with the cost of prescription hearing aids ranging from $1,000 to $4,000. A new collaboration between UnitedHealthcare Hearing and AARP aims to make them easier on the pocket.

UnitedHealthcare Hearing is part of UnitedHealthcare and has a network of more than 7,000 hearing providers across the nation. AARP, meanwhile, is a nonprofit serving about 38 million members who are at least 50 years old.

Through the partnership, which was announced last week, AARP members can purchase prescription and over-the-counter hearing aids through UnitedHealthcare Hearing. AARP Members — even if they’re not covered by UnitedHealthcare — can buy prescription hearing aids starting at $699, as well as receive a complimentary hearing test and hearing aid consultation from the payer’s network of hearing providers.

AARP members can also receive virtual care and a 15% discount on hearing care products, including hearing accessories and assistive listening devices. Additionally, they can receive a year of follow-up care with a provider for no added cost.

Those seeking the program’s services can start by going to AARP Hearing Solutions’ website. They begin with an online hearing test, select how they want to receive care and see a hearing provider, who can help them decide which products are best for them.

The program is able to sell these hearing aids at a low cost because it serves such a large group of people, said Dave Falda, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Hearing.

“As one of the nation’s largest providers of hearing aids, we have the opportunity to leverage economies of scale and have established strategic relationships with key manufacturers and care providers to offer members such affordable prices,” Falda said.

UnitedHealthcare Hearing has been around for over a decade, providing care to its own members. Working with AARP allows it to expand its services, Falda said.

“We just simply have an opportunity to help more people,” he said in an interview. “Hearing unfortunately affects millions of people and it’s been reported that a large portion of people for whatever reason are unable or not pursuing hearing care.”

Indeed, about 13% of all adults and 27% of adults aged 65 and older have difficulty hearing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hearing loss is linked to higher rates of dementia, depression and fall injuries, the University of Michigan reported.

Greg Marion, AARP services senior vice president of health products and services, described the partnership with UnitedHealthcare and the “exclusive pricing” for OTC products as a game changer. 

“AARP members will benefit from access to UnitedHealthcare Hearing’s expansive network of hearing centers and its commitment to providing quality hearing care,” Marion said in a statement.

Photo: PIKSEL, Getty Images

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UnitedHealthcare is providing members of its Motion program access to Apple Fitness+ workout classes, powered by Apple Watch, for at least six months and at no additional cost.

UnitedHealthcare Motion is a well-being program that enables people to earn over $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily activity goals, Rebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare’s chief consumer officer, said in an email. People in the program have access to several wearables, including Apple Watches, at no additional cost and as buy-up options.

Beginning Jan. 1, UnitedHealthcare Motion enrollees with Apple Watches will have access to Apple Fitness+, which provides a variety of studio-style workouts, including high-intensity interval training, yoga, dance and cycling.

“UnitedHealthcare and Apple share a joint mission to help people live healthier lives,” Madsen said via email. “By making Apple Fitness+ accessible to UnitedHealthcare Motion members with Apple Watch, we are helping achieve that goal. Plus, with interest in at-home fitness resources surging amid Covid-19, this collaboration is another way to support our members on their journeys toward health.”

Eligible members will gain free access to Apple Fitness+ workouts for six months, after which they will be able to buy a six-month subscription using program earnings, a credit card or a combination of both.

Providing access to Apple Fitness+ is a part of the insurer’s broader effort to offer people digital resources and financial incentives that can help them better manage their health, especially their chronic conditions, Madsen said.

“UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to creating seamless, integrated health programs and resources that empower people to take charge of their health, more easily navigate the health system and help make care more affordable for all Americans,” she added. “We are helping accomplish those goals with UnitedHealthcare Motion and the new collaboration with Apple.”

A recent study, which followed 44,370 men and women for 4 to 14.5 years, showed that people who spent more time being sedentary faced a higher risk of death as compared to people who spent more time being physically active.

UnitedHealthcare Motion enables members to earn financial incentives based on reaching daily fitness targets, which include completing 300 steps within five minutes, six times per day, at least an hour apart.

Since the launch of the program, UnitedHealthcare Motion participants have collectively walked more than 511 billion steps and earned $60 million in rewards, Madsen said.

Photo credit: martin-dm, Getty Images

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