For decades, Neighborhood Health Plan was known for serving the poor. It became a leading Medicaid carrier in Massachusetts.
Now, reflecting a remarkable shift in the company’s focus, poor and low-income people make up a fraction of its business. The company is doubling down on a strategy to sell insurance to employers and their workers in hopes of competing with the state’s largest health plans.
And soon, the company said Tuesday, it will have a new name to match its ambitions.
Neighborhood — which was acquired six years ago by the state’s largest hospital network, Partners HealthCare — no longer wants to be known as merely a local plan. So beginning in 2019, the company will change its name to AllWays Health Partners.
The new name doesn’t reflect the company’s roots, its corporate owner, or even the fact that it is an insurer. But executives said it offers a chance to tell employers, insurance brokers, and consumers how the company has evolved.
“It’s about what employers feel when they hear ‘Neighborhood Health Plan’. . . They don’t know it, and when they do know it they associate it with a Medicaid plan,” said David Segal, Neighborhood’s chief executive.
The insurer now has about 110,000 commercial members and about 33,000 members in the state Medicaid program, called MassHealth, which covers poor and low-income individuals. Neighborhood also said it will launch a Medicare supplement plan next year.
The company’s plans for aggressive growth will pit it against the state’s big three health insurers: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Tufts Health Plan. All three have significantly more members than Neighborhood.
“We expect to grow and compete with Blue Cross, Harvard Pilgrim, and Tufts in the market for the business that exists today,” Segal said, “and we’re going to be very assertive.”
After Partners acquired Neighborhood in 2012, the insurer struggled with a swelling MassHealth membership and hundreds of millions of dollars in financial losses. Neighborhood eventually froze its MassHealth enrollment as part of a corrective action plan with state officials.
Last year, Neighborhood executives said they would shift strategies to focus less on MassHealth and move primarily into commercial insurance — a more lucrative line of business.
Partners said in June that it would move the administration of health benefits for all its employees and their families — about 100,000 people — from Blue Cross to Neighborhood. The move is a huge boost to Neighborhood and will nearly double the insurer’s membership.
Jon Kingsdale, a health care consultant and former Massachusetts health insurance executive, said Neighborhood’s new name probably won’t mean much to consumers. If the company wants to grow, he said, it needs to offer coverage plans with access to a wide network of medical providers — and at a reasonable cost.
“The key is not the name. The key is the strategy that goes along with the name change,” Kingsdale said.
Neighborhood executives said they have worked to develop creative benefits and incentives. For example, they waived out-of-pocket costs for some prescription drugs, and they offered a money-back guarantee for poor service.
The company, which employs nearly 600 people, plans to run ads this fall to announce its new name. Tim Walsh, chief marketing officer, said the name AllWays Health Partners was tested in focus groups, and “it resonated really well.”
“This is an opportunity to reset,” Walsh said.