A Publication of WTVP

Healthcare costs continue to increase, and the main drivers of rising costs are preventable diseases. With that in mind, and since over 61 percent of American adults receive health insurance through their employers, it’s understandable there are increased expectations on employers to help their employees live healthier lives. To assist them, many health benefit plans offer incentive or rewards programs aimed at helping employees achieve better health.

In addition to motivating and rewarding workers for living a healthy lifestyle, participating in rewards programs can help keep employers’ claim costs and insurance premiums to a minimum. It also reduces the cost burden on every aspect of the nation’s healthcare system.

Positive Financial Impact for Businesses
Many studies have assessed the financial impact of programs offered in the workplace that promote health, and many have proven positive ROI for businesses—including incentive programs. Due to the healthier workforce that results from these programs, they’ve been shown to not only lower healthcare costs, they also help control and reduce other costs, including those associated with workers compensation, disability, productivity, absenteeism and even turnover.

How Health Incentive Programs Work
Different insurers’ plans will vary, but all share similar goals of offering participants, whether they are already in good health or not, incentives or rewards to drive healthy decision-making and health maintenance actions.

Depending on a health plan’s options, participating employees might earn points for getting active, losing weight or eating healthier. Some plans also offer rewards on screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index to establish a baseline for objectively tracking their wellness data. Employees might also earn points for taking health-related classes, such as nutrition and fitness classes, or for completing a CPR certification course. Typically, participants can then exchange points for a range of rewards set by each insurer.

As a specific example of how such a plan works, the HumanaVitality program incents its members with rewards for making healthy choices and achieving individualized wellness goals based on measurable data in four categories: 1) Fitness; 2) Healthy Living; 3) Prevention; and 4) Education. Members accumulate “Vitality Points” for their accomplishments within each category, and then redeem their points from a selection of more than 600,000 reward choices, such as movie tickets, brand-name merchandise or hotel stays.

Implementing Your Health-Based Incentive Program
There are several best practices to consider when you implement (or are looking to fortify) your health-based incentive program.

Engaging Employees is Key to Success
Ideally, employees would enthusiastically participate in a program designed to improve their health. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. But they do respond to incentives, especially when a business uses a strong promotion plan to engage employees. Here are some proven ideas for communicating the many benefits of your program that can increase participation.

Overall, the biggest key to success of incentive programs is to engage your employees. There is inherently no way a program can succeed without employee participation.

Take Action to Control Costs and Improve Health
Chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, cause seven in 10 deaths and account for nearly 75 percent of the $2 trillion spent on medical care in the United States each year. You’ll want to take advantage of the unique opportunity incentive health plans present to help reduce healthcare system costs—and, again, most importantly, improve the health of your employees.

Talk to your insurance consultant or broker about the incentive programs they offer. They can provide you with not only detailed information about effective wellness plans, but also further advice on how to implement a successful program of your own. iBi

Dave Reynolds is president of Humana’s Illinois commercial market.