Specialty health care has grown in recent years to become a $60 billion industry. Despite rising health insurance premiums, interest in specialty medicine and health education programs is at an all-time high. In fact, the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey of specialty health care use by Americans, showed that approximately 38 percent of adults use specialty health care. Health care experts believe that the industry will continue to grow as more consumers choose specialty health care therapies to improve their overall health and well-being.
Historically, specialty health care has not been covered by traditional health insurance plans. But more and more, consumers are seeking out health care options that go beyond traditional medical care. These same consumers want to experience a greater sense of empowerment in making health care decisions, along with maintaining greater control over their own health. In many cases, offering the opportunity to explore less invasive treatments is a key component of meeting this consumer demand. Today, some specialty insurers, HMOs, and other organizations provide coverage for this care.
Progressive employers recognize this growing demand and are embracing services as lower-cost “complements” to traditional employee benefit packages. In an era of benefit takeaways, higher deductibles, and increased employee copays, specialty health care allows employers to offer a new benefit with a high perceived value for a cost that is usually just 1–2 percent of an employer’s total health care premiums.
Additionally, employers today are increasingly focused on implementing wellness programs that address obesity, smoking, and other health concerns that contribute to rising health care costs. According to a 2011 Willis Health and Productivity Survey, 60 percent of the more than 1,200 employers surveyed reported having some type of wellness program in place, compared with just 43 percent in 2010.
The ASH family of companies includes the following subsidiaries:
A growing body of clinical evidence supports the clinical benefits of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutrition services, and naturopathic services. Evidence-based specialty health care therapies such as these have proven effective in treating a wide variety of medical conditions and in helping individuals meet their health and wellness goals. Among the research supporting the efficacy of specialty health care:
ASH Insurance is a health insurance company domiciled in Illinois and admitted in 43 states and the District of Columbia. Through this company, employers in a growing number of states are able— usually for the first time—to directly purchase supplemental group riders for specialty health care from a specialty benefits health insurance company. This makes options such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutrition services, and naturopathy more readily accessible to local workforces. ASH products are currently approved in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Available benefit options vary by state.
Healthyroads, an ASH subsidiary, is one of the nation’s largest prevention and wellness programs, covering more than 6 million members with more than 170 clients. Healthyroads offers a comprehensive, fully-integrated prevention and wellness platform comprised of various programs that may be combined to meet the needs of an organization and its employees. Programs and services include telephone lifestyle, life skills, and condition health coaching; a wellness Internet portal; incentive programs; wireless technology; biometric services; worksite education programs; and worksite health promotion.
Specialty health care
is a term used to describe therapies and treatments not practiced by traditional medical doctors, but often used in conjunction with or as a complement to traditional medicine. These therapies include chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage therapy as complements to traditional treatments such as physical therapy or pain medication. They also include nutrition services and naturopathy, as well as mind-body techniques such as mental imagery and relaxation skills.
Some traditional medical doctors recommend specialty health care therapies for their patients as part of their overall treatment. These therapies historically have not been covered by traditional health insurance plans.
is used to describe therapies or treatments that are used in place of traditional medical care. Such therapies might include treating cancer with a special diet rather than through surgery or chemotherapy, as might be recommended in Western medicine.
ASH does not offer or recommend alternative health care. Instead, ASH offers specialty health care, which complements traditional health care options. For example, through specialty health care a member who has cancer might choose to use techniques such as massage therapy and relaxation skills in conjunction with his or her chemotherapy sessions.
Programs and services include:
Total Population Health Management Services
—Lifestyle, life skills, and condition health coaching; wellness Internet portal; incentives; wireless technology; and worksite wellness programs
Fitness and Exercise Services
—Exercise and walking programs providing no-cost, low-cost, or discounts on fitness club/exercise center memberships, home fitness programs, and Internet-based exercise tools
Specialty Health Care Management Programs
—Access to contracted practitioners nationwide and administrative services for chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutrition services, naturopathy, physical therapy and occupational therapy services (fully delegated at-risk or ASO arrangements are available)
ASH's main office is located in the Sorrento Mesa district of San Diego, and the company has another location in Dallas. The company employs more than 900 people nationwide.
ASH was co-founded by George DeVries (current ASH chairman and CEO) in 1987. The initial vision for ASH was to provide health plans with network management services for chiropractic, allowing members direct access to ASH contracted providers. ASH developed one of the nation’s largest specialty provider networks over the next decade and expanded its provider networks to include a broad range of health services.
During the last decade, ASH has continued to expand, adding services for physical therapy, total population health management, and exercise and activity programs.
Like traditional medicine, there is no “typical” consumer of specialty health care. In some cases, individuals use specialty health care therapies because acupuncture, massage therapy, or other services have been recommended by their medical doctor. Many patients choose specialty health care when traditional therapies have failed to bring the desired results, or when they prefer to try less invasive therapies—or in order to ensure that they have tried all options for attaining the best possible outcome when treating their health condition.
According to a 1998 study conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers, consumers make almost twice as many visits to specialty health care providers every year than they do to primary care physicians, and an estimated four in 10 Americans use some form of specialty health care every year. With regards to lifestyle, consumers who use specialty health care are more likely to exercise, eat well, and be in better overall shape.
American Specialty Health is a national health company that provides health services to health plans, insurance carriers, employer groups, and trust funds.
ASH subsidiaries operate in all 50 states, providing access to contracted practitioners and an administrative platform for clients. ASH clients include more than 120 health plans and more than 2,200 employer groups nationwide.
ASH membership has grown organically and includes more than:
18 million in benefit programs
91 million overall in affinity discount programs
More than 6 million in health coaching and total population health management programs
More than 1.2 million in fitness and exercise benefit programs
Silver & Fit
© 2010 American Specialty Health, Inc.