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Employers Focus on Wellness to Decrease Health Insurance Costs

Posted Aug 20 2012 2:15pm

More and more large employers across the nation are implementing wellness programs into their health insurance benefit packages  in an effort to reduce costs.  The idea remains that if employees are encouraged to take care of their health through exercise and screenings, then their health care needs will decrease and health insurance costs will go down accordingly.  For the most part, this initiative has been successful and in the city of Cleveland specifically, big name employers such as the Cleveland Clinic and Medical Mutual embrace this method to keep health care costs low.  While larger companies have the resources to offer such beneficial wellness programs, small companies have often struggled to make this work in their employer-sponsored health insurance.

According to Sarah Jane Tribble’s article on Cleveland.com, putting together organized screenings, workout regimes, and tracking services is very daunting for smaller companies who lack the financial means and the man-power to do this efficiently.  A recent Towers-Watson report shows that during the past two years, spending on health-management programs at employers across the country have gone up by about 50%.  Of these employers, 54% said they offer financial rewards for participation in such wellness plans.  In 2012, it’s expected to increase substantially to about 80%.  Geri Recht, a senior consultant at Towers-Watson points out that organizations are much more proactive about health management because there is a direct correlation to overall costs.

There is long-term financial gain associated with health and productivity programs.  Not only can group health insurance rates be reduced, but time away from work often drops and overall productivity from the employees increases.  This is very attractive to employers who must find ways to cut costs if they want to continue offering health insurance benefits to their workers.  The rising cost of health care is debilitating for many companies so there is a shift of focus to the root of the problem, which happens to be the fact that America is getting sicker and sicker.

UnitedHealthcare is offering a new product in Ohio that offers employers and their employees reduced health insurance rates even before claims, doctor bills and hospital bills drop.  One Ohio company said their expected 15-20% increase in premiums was dropped to 9% for implementing UnitedHealthcare’s program.  Patricia Horvath, executive director of the Northern Ohio Health Plan at Unitedhealthcare says this sends a very important message to employees.  They expect results and are willing to invest sooner to win business and save companies money.  Ohio employers are so excited about the new product that UnitedHealthcare is considering expanding to Texas, Georgia and Florida.

It’s apparent that employers want their employees to take responsibility for their health and get on board health wellness programs.  Employers looking to keep health insurance rates low want a culture of wellness and many are willing to do what they can to facilitate change.  With insurers getting on board this tactic, smaller companies will find it easier to offer plans to their employers and keep everyone healthier.  With health care reform upon us, some small employers are faced with the decision to offer health insurance benefits at all.  Unfortunately, as the competitive atmosphere picks up for quality workers, so does the need to have stand out work benefits such as health insurance.  Employer-sponsored health insurance is not going away anytime soon, but it’s crucial that insurers and employers work together to keep costs down otherwise no one will be able to afford the rising costs of health care America faces at this time.

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