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The Benefits of EHP

Michelle Ross-Gavin, director of client services, Employer Health Programs.

Harrison Heath spent the two years that were supposed to have led up to his retirement gravely ill with complications from diabetes. He was in and out of at least five different hospitals, a nursing home, and ultimately a hospice.
"He couldn't walk, he couldn't turn, he couldn't move his hands," says Joan Heath of her husband, who worked at the computer help desk for Information Services at Hopkins Hospital. "The man suffered something awful." It was a stressful time for Joan, a medical technologist at a commercial lab, and what got her through the toughest times, oddly enough, was her late husband's insurance company.

EHP, or Employer Health Programs, not only took care of all her husband's claims, but helped Joan fill out paperwork, made arrangements for special tests, and helped her comb the area for the right nursing home. "Working with them was, under the circumstances, a joy."

Although the Heath case was unusual in its length and intensity, EHP prides itself on this sort of personal attention. The company assigns a care coordinator who is a registered nurse to each individual employer group. "At other companies, you might get through to a customer service rep," says Michelle Ross-Gavin, director of client services at EHP. "But here any member can talk with an RN, whether it's to coordinate a huge amount of care for a catastrophic illness or just a one-time phone call on a member's behalf. It's what differentiates us from the competition."

Since the Johns Hopkins Health System decided to become part of the competition seven years ago, to use the millions of dollars it was spending to purchase medical benefits for its employees to administer its own health plan, EHP has stood above the crowd in a number of ways. Hopkins physicians and staff not only provide care for members, they have the freedom to make decisions about it, too.

The company, which now serves nine clients (six are Hopkins entities), has experienced steady but careful growth. "We have not marketed aggressively in the last couple of years," says Beth Beale, vice president of client relations at EHP, "and that's by design. We wanted to focus on service improvements for our current clients."
Since its early years, the company has upgraded its phone system to answer calls more quickly, installed a more robust computer system to pay claims faster and more accurately, and administered annual member satisfaction surveys from which service parameters are set.

The company's membership has grown from 4,000 to 38,000 since 1996, and members can now choose from a network of 8,400 providers-a number that has more than tripled-throughout Maryland, Delaware, southern Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

Beale's goal for this year's enrollment period is to increase members from the Johns Hopkins University, including the school of Medicine.

"It's a great benefit for employees," says Beale, "and it even costs less than other health plans. We're not as big, and we're very selective about whom we offer services to. We think we understand the specific needs of working in an academic medical environment, and we can do it for ourselves."





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