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Three Ways Health Insurers Can Help with H1N1

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, October 28, 2009

Slightly more than half of 1,502 surveyed U.S. adults agree that H1N1 is a serious threat, but that doesn't mean those same people are protecting themselves against the virus.

The survey, conducted last month by the Burlington, MA-based healthcare communications company Silverlink Communications, Inc., found that less than one-third of those same 1,502 Americans plan on getting the H1N1 vaccine. I can relate.

I cover healthcare and speak to countless health officials and executives each month, but I don't plan on getting an H1N1 flu shot either—or a seasonal flu shot for that matter.

Sure, President Barack Obama can declare that the swine flu is a national emergency, but that doesn't mean that someone like me who has never had any kind of flu shot will get vaccinated.

Those in their 20s are even less apt than a thirty-something like myself to head to their doctors or clinics to get their H1N1 shots. Silverlink found that more than 70% of 18- to 24-year-olds—considered high risk of contracting H1N1—will not get the H1N1 vaccine. Meanwhile, almost half of seniors plan on getting the H1N1 vaccine, which could ultimately drain the availability of it—despite the fact that seniors are not considered a high-risk group.

So, if you couple the public's indifference and suspicion with a lack of knowledge about the vaccine (one-quarter of people surveyed didn't know there were different vaccines for H1N1 and seasonal flu), you see why the government and health officials are trying to educate the public.

But there are healthcare stakeholders with a wealth of patient information and resources that could help push people like me to get their H1N1 shots: health insurers.

Jan Berger, MD, chief medical officer at Silverlink and a healthcare leader for more than 25 years, says insurers could play a key role in the fight against H1N1, which Berger predicts will have a "significant financial impact on health plans."

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