According to Gordian Health Solutions, the effectiveness of wellness programs in improving health and decreasing health care costs is directly linked to incentives -
• the more substantial the incentives,
• the higher the success rate.
Incentives can range from tokens of achievement, such as t-shirts, water bottles and sports equipment, to more substantial financial awards, such as cash incentives or copay vouchers for the successful completion of a program.
Nationwide Insurance is seeing results from a small incentive program initiated by one of the corporation’s onsite nurses. to encourage lunchtime walking, the staff member has informally launched a “shoelace program” modeled after the karate-belt color system.
Staff Members progress through the color scale until they reach “black-lace” status. the reward system has resulted in more employees making commitments to walk during their lunch hour.
At the high end of the reward spectrum, some corporations pay cash to employees who meet wellness objectives. LuK, Inc. offers employees $250 for kicking the tobacco habit and remaining smoke free for 12 months.
For logging fitness points that add up to 10 miles a month, staff members are eligible for health assessments, which may result in reward amounts of up to $225.
The most effective motivator, as reported by Gordian research, comes through linking participation in wellness programs directly to insurance premiums. Doing so obviously demonstrates to employees the positive effects of wellness on their own healthcare costs.
Often, the first step in linking wellness programming to insurance coverage is lowering deductibles for wellness care or eliminating deductibles altogether. By adding this benefit, corporations can encourage staff members to undertake routine screenings and other procedures to respond to health problems before they become chronic.
Early detection benefits both patient health and company health care costs.
Incentivizing wellness program participation with health care credits
More frequently, companys are going beyond increased wellness care coverage and looking to demonstrate the importance of wellness by linking participation to employees’ bottom lines.
Worthington Industries has recently rolled out a program that allows employees to eliminate their portion of the insurance premium by enrolling in a Healthy Options wellness program.
During the first year of the Healthy Options program, employees and their spouses complete Personal Health Assessments and medical testings to determine their levels of health risks.
Nurses, dietitians and exercise experts are available to help moderate- and high-risk participants develop individual action plans for improved health through the use of educational materials, behavior modification, telephone help from third-party program health coordinators, and formal health management programs.
By completing the assessments, employees earn their full premium credit. Because some plans at Worthington require no worker contribution, a cash award takes the place of a credit in those cases.
During year two of the program, the wellness bar is raised slightly. to continue to receive the wellness credit, participants in the moderate- to high-risk category will be required to work at setting objectives with third-party health coordinators.
Year three raises the bar again, requiring participants to show progress in meeting goals and to continue to work with health coordinators to reach goals.
After year three, Worthington Industries workers will be on the wellness track. the corporation believes that’ll mean a healthier workforce and cost savings for workers and the corporation.
The well being of Worthington staff members is the foundation of this program, and both staff members and the company are expected to benefit from the long-term advantages of the Healthful Options Wellness Program.
While Worthington has taken a wide approach to wellness, other corporations have found success in offering incentives in specific areas. Longaberger, for example, offers a discount on health care policies for workers who do not use tobacco.
A personal employee who does not use tobacco saves $7 per bi-weekly pay. for smoke-free employees with family coverage whose families are also smoke-free, the savings increases to $14 per pay.
The next step - Penalizing harmful behaviors
As it stands, health care is the only type of insurance that does not focus on penalizing for behaviors that put the insured party at risk. With health care costs rising so dramatically, that could soon change.
Just as an accident likely raises auto insurance premiums, increasing premiums for those who engage in unhealthful behaviors is a possible next step in companys’ attempts to manage health care costs.
Reports that workers would support this type of action are stacking up. One Ohio corporation conducted an informal survey that indicated workers would consider it a morale improve if health-conscious workers were relieved of some burden of subsidizing care for workers who engage in behaviors that adversely affect their health.
Whether or not this type of program gains popularity, one thing is sure - the need to control the rise in health care costs is becoming ever more pressing.
Take the first step
Whatever the strategy, from offering employees medical resources to providing incentives for healthful behaviors, companys have a real opportunity to improve morale and productivity, lower rates of absenteeism and control health care costs through wellness.
The first step is committing to taking one, whatever size effort is appropriate for your organization. Big strides start with small steps.
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