Health Insurance Sticker Shock Warrants a Turn to Employee Wellness Programs
Posted Aug 26 2008 4:30pm
The 2008 health insurance enrollment season is well under way. Employers and employees are experiencing double digit increases between 10 and 25% maybe more. Health insurers blame the high costs of prescription drugs.Drug spending, for example, rose 11.5 percent in 2006 to $250 billion, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. And it’s doubled as a proportion of total U.S. health care spending. The vast majority of prescription drugs go towards lifestyle induced preventable illnesses. All of which could be avoided if Americans exercised more and lost weight.
Many companies are looking at high deductible consumer driven health plans, which can help employers cut costs. They are using part of the savings to fund wellness programs because these plans work best if employees stay healthy. AccuMed Technologies of Buffalo cut its health care costs by 10 percent after it went “experience- rated” and switched to a high-deductible health plan.
AccuMed also hired an outside consultant to institute an internal fitness and wellness program to help employees better manage their health. The consultant leads employees in lunchtime walks, yoga, aerobics and nutrition training.
“It was just a phenomenal change for AccuMed, and the employees really like it. It’s building their savings accounts, and you’re seeing people start to take control over how they spend their medical dollars,” said AccuMed Chief Financial Officer William M. McGowan.