Health Care and Small Business & Startups

Holistic provider network looks to optimize wellness

It’s designed to fill in gaps where traditional insurance leaves off.

April 18, 2014
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A group of wellness-related businesses have banded together to offer discounted prices for those who want to add to their conventional health care.

Natural Wellness Alliance, a holistic business network, is providing individuals and groups a unique supplemental health benefit program to optimize their wellness strategy. The network not only offers discounts for members on products and services, but also offers incentives for small businesses in various wellness and health industries to join the alliance.

Laura Lyons, the alliance’s founder and chief executive officer, said the provider network is a different concept since it is meant to enhance wellness and fill in the gaps where insurance leaves off in terms of preventive health measures.

“We are not looking to compete, because what we are doing is very different. We are looking to help individuals and groups optimize what they are doing,” said Lyons in reference to the health care industry.

“It is a health benefit, but it isn’t an insurance product, and because it covers a multitude of products and services that people don’t expect to have a benefit with, it can be a process to help people understand that it is a different product than what they have seen before.”

According to its website, Natural Wellness Alliance has united a network of local professionals with many areas of expertise with the motivation to address causes of sickness and disease, rather than only treating symptoms.

With a background in business operations, management and sales, Lyons formed a limited liability company that brings together more than 70 businesses offering a range of wellness services. Health food stores, fitness equipment and apparel, natural cosmetics, massage therapists, health risk assessments and wellness coaching are some of the types of businesses.

“As the idea kind of developed into what it is now, I didn’t want to be an expert in what I was not qualified,” said Lyons. “I used my own skills to coordinate the experts that already exist and bring the right people together to solve the problems in insurance and health care — fill in the gaps, I should say.”

Lyons said providers were sought out based on recommendations, on whether they could accommodate growth for additional clientele, and whether the services or products offered would fit the network business model.

With the majority of providers in Michigan, businesses are primarily distributed between Muskegon and the Greater Grand Rapids area. Other regional businesses are located along the lakeshore as far south as Saugatuck and Kalamazoo and as far north as Whitehall. With businesses joining each week, the alliance is expanding in the Big Rapids area and to businesses across the nation that are able to provide online services.

Several incentives for providers to join the alliance include exposure to a broader audience through the public directory and a residual commission from referring clients to join NWA. Each business also has a customized relationship with the alliance to allow the flexibility to design discounts that align with business goals and still allow a profit margin.

According to Lyons, businesses are allowed to decide whether a discount on a product or a markdown on specialized services makes sense on an operational level.

Shoreline Natural Wellness, an organization specializing in heart disorders, offers a 20 percent discount for the first month for all services provided and a 10 percent ongoing discount for supplements. In the chiropractic and massage field, Hungerford Chiropractic and Wellness Center offers a discounted rate of $35 for a one-hour massage and 50 percent off new patient examinations and diagnostics scans.

According to Lyons, NWA-affiliated businesses are not required to pay association fees; all revenue for the holistic network is derived from memberships.

The benefit program is available for individuals, families, groups and corporations. As a corporate or group member, services such as on-site education in nutrition or stress management can be added to an NWA plan to work in conjunction with an existing corporate wellness program, or as the sole benefit option.

NWA offers three enrollment options for interested members based on a monthly fee. An individual limited benefit membership includes access to national, online and virtual business discounts for $19.99 per month. The individual full benefit plan grants access to modified local provider prices in addition to the limited enrollment benefits for $26.99 per month. The full benefits family enrollment plan is $36.99 each month. According to the NWA website, members save more than $200 a month on purchases they already make by enrolling in the holistic network.

According to Lyons, the cost savings can encourage people to make choices aligning with healthier behaviors — and, she said, initially the network began as a personal passion to educate others on resources available for complementary and alternative therapies for chronic illnesses.

“The most enjoyable part is to see individuals who are struggling with a chronic health condition, and see what happens when they learn how to take charge of their own health and impact their life for the better and truly change their own life and even save their life,” said Lyons.

“It really gives them an opportunity to access resources and learn about options that they didn’t even know existed.”

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