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Study: Health insurance managed lives grew by 13 million from Jan. 2011 to June 2012

BY Alaric DeArment

BENSALEM, Pa. — Thirteen million more Americans had health insurance in June 2012 than 18 months earlier, according to a new report by BusinessOne Technologies, a healthcare technology and data company.

The report, titled "Managed Lives Trends in the Current Health Care Reform Environment," found that the 5.4% increase in total coverage between January 2011 and June 2012 was due in part to healthcare-reform measures that are increasing access ahead of the planned 2014 rollout of the healthcare-reform law’s individual mandate.

The measures include coverage of dependent children and adults up to the age of 26 years, tax credits for small businesses and early Medicaid expansion in some states. According to the report, Medicare coverage grew by 12%, while Managed Medicaid grew by 10.4% and commercial insurance grew by 5%. Commercial insurance saw the largest increase in the number of insured individuals, which was up by 7.6 million.


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Kinn introduces products for administering pet meds

BY Alaric DeArment

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. — Anyone with pets knows that the challenge of getting them to swallow pills is up there with giving them baths.

One company has introduced a line of products designed to make the process easier. Kinn announced the launch of Kudose, which allows pills to be hidden inside homemade treats, and Krocodile, a pill splitter and crusher.

"We created Kinn to help people strengthen the relationship between pets and their families," Kinn CEO Alex McKinnon said. "We do this focusing on the health, wellness and happiness of dogs and cats. For our launch, we’ve tackled one of the most challenging aspects of caring for your pet — giving pills to cats and dogs — and created a safe way to split or crush pills, then turn them into delicious homemade cat and dog treats."


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Safeway’s Just for U loyalty platform, shopping app driving optimism at the chain

BY Michael Johnsen

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway’s approach to multichannel retailing — a shopping app fielding personalized, targeted promotions to members of its growing Just for U loyalty program — represents the foundation for future growth, executives noted during a conference call with analysts Thursday morning.  

"There is a much greater propensity for people who have downloaded the app to become regular [loyalty] users," Safeway’s chairman and CEO Steve Burd told analysts. Burd even quantified that propensity — shoppers who downloaded Safeway’s shopping app were 30% more likely to  become regular loyalty users, or users who shop often and spend heavily, and spend between 40% and 50% more than consumers who access Safeway’s site from a desktop. Of the 4.5 million Just for U loyalty card holders to date, approximately 26% are considered regular users, Burd said. 

The Just for U program is expected to battle competitive threats from all quarters — other supermarket retailers, supercenters and retail pharmacy operators, Burd noted. "The effect of Just for U is to cause people to come to the store more often and to buy more when they’re there," he said. "People shop multiple channels. [The loyalty program] gives them an opportunity to consolidate more business with us."

Some of the points of differentiation that set Safeway’s Just for U loyalty program apart is the level of personalization, the level of predictive analysis of a shopper’s needs with the segmentation of products a consumer buys regularly from products that a consumer might buy regularly. Burd noted that more than 200 digital coupons are available on the Safeway shopping app. "[We have] virtually every coupon in the market digitized," he said. 

But the Just for U loyalty program and shopping app represent only one leg of a three-legged loyalty stool, Burd said. Safeway’s fuel program is the second leg and the third leg — a comprehensive wellness program — hasn’t even launched yet. "The upside for Just for U really lies ahead of us," Burd said. "Think of Just for U as a communications vehicle. It might be communicating what’s going on in wellness; it might be communicating what’s going on in the fuel program," he added. "It’s really our marketing platform for the next decade."

Safeway plans to launch a wellness platform in the fourth quarter, Burd noted during the conference call. "Wellness [will be] the biggest leg of the stool," he said. However, Burd held more definitive launch dates and specifics of the program close to the vest.

During a presentation at the Goldman Sachs 19th Annual Global Retailing Conference in September, Burd suggested that Safeway’s wellness program has been in development for more than two years now. "We are working with a partner who has innovative technology, so it’s not just us," he said last month. Safeway will pilot its wellness platform in one market in the fourth quarter and expects full rollout by the end of 2013. "When completed, the initiative is expected to deliver not only some strong IDs, but also a good margin and good income. And it should attract more people to our stores."

Sales and other revenue declined 0.2% to $10 billion in the third quarter ended Sept. 8, primarily due to the disposition of Genuardi’s stores and a lower Canadian exchange rate, partly offset by higher fuel sales, Safeway reported. Identical-store sales, excluding fuel, were up 0.1% for the quarter.

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