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April 24, 2019 | ROI, Corporate Wellness & Benefits

The Role of Employee Wellness Programs in Health Care Cost Management

feature-image_how-wellness-programs-lower-costs

As a human resource leader, executive, or business owner in today’s marketplace, what keeps you up at night?

Finances? We get that.

Employee retention? Completely understandable.

Reaching sales quotas? Of course.

But what about your organization’s healthcare expenses?

For many companies, healthcare is becoming an increasingly difficult business imperative to control. With healthcare costs steadily rising for the past four decades – rising even as you read this – you’re not alone if you’re constantly in search of a strategy to contain these escalating costs while still benefiting your organization’s population and bottom line.

Common Healthcare Cost Management Solutions: Do They All Work?

Change in one area almost always demands change in another. With the total projected price tag for 2019 healthcare benefits (medical and pharmaceutical) expected to rise 5% for the sixth consecutive year,1 what other choice do you have but to adapt?

As an employer, you’re on the hook for approximately 70% of healthcare costs.1

To cut overall healthcare expenses on a company-wide scale, organizations are:

  • Reducing their employee population/company size  
  • Moving from costly/all-inclusive benefit plans to less expensive options
  • Shifting more healthcare costs to their employees
  • Offering wellness initiatives and implementing wellness programs

Without question, finding solutions to reduce healthcare costs is time consuming, challenging and risky – as nothing is guaranteed to work and may prove unfavorable to your business and culture.

What’s crucial to keep in mind is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for reducing healthcare costs. You must think about your organization’s exact needs before seriously considering or executing a strategy.

  • If your company can’t run on a smaller workforce, don’t start there.
  • If your company takes pride in offering your workforce premium benefits, hang tight to that for the time being.
  • If your company doesn’t believe in placing more of the healthcare cost burden – such as higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs – on your employees, don’t go all-in there.

Today’s Current Healthcare Landscape Can Reveal a Lot

According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), U.S. healthcare spending rose nearly a trillion dollars from 1996 to 2013.2

In the midst of all your strategizing, you’re undoubtedly wondering why healthcare costs have increased so much and why they keep rising.

The study tried to establish five key factors in the healthcare cost increase:

  • Growing and aging population
  • Increased ambulatory costs (including outpatient hospital services and emergency room care)
  • Higher out-of-pocket costs
  • Increase in chronic illnesses
  • Rising health insurance premiums (with the two most-cited reasons for these increases being government policy and lifestyle changes)

As an Employer, You Can Reduce Costs & Have a Positive Impact on Culture

As an employer, it can feel like you have no control over your employee’s health and wellness – how they choose to live their lives is their prerogative.

While factors like aging and ambulatory costs are largely unmanageable, your organization can employ solutions to reduce healthcare costs when it comes to chronic illnesses, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and higher out-of-pocket expenses.

Implementing a personalized employee wellness program that meshes with your organization’s culture, aligns with your organization’s goals, and truly empowers employees to engage with healthy choices can improve employee health and help offset rising healthcare costs for both the employee and your company.

This is more than a way to lower your insurance premiums. When you get more involved in your employees’ health and wellness, you’re showing your employees that their company values them as individuals, on and off the clock.

How Wellness Programs Lower Insurance Premiums

According to the National Association of Health Underwriters, as much as 70 percent of healthcare spending can be attributed to behavioral and lifestyle choices.3

Through a multifaceted wellness program, your employees can permanently eliminate the root causes of unwanted behaviors that lead to preventable health issues.

In general, wellness programs help you achieve lower insurance premiums by:

  • Helping employees become more responsible for their own health and healthcare decisions
  • Minimizing healthcare utilization
  • Giving you more leverage to negotiate better benefits contracts with vendors
  • Reducing health costs over the long term

Move Your Company’s Healthcare Cost Needle With a Robust Wellness Program

The most comprehensive wellness programs help employees deal with preventable and chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, by motivating them to complete wellness activities, such as annual health risk assessments, smoking-cessation programs, or weight-reduction programs.

For any wellness program to be effective and reduce healthcare costs, however, employees must be aware of the entire spectrum of program offerings and be committed to engaging in the wellness initiatives.

Studies have shown that when employee wellness programs are strategically designed, offer a health assessment with relevant follow-up, and deliver customizable options to meet employees’ needs, they have significant potential to improve population health and financial healthcare outcomes.4

Let Bravo Help You Reduce Your Healthcare Spending & Improve the ROI of Wellness Initiatives

At Bravo, we believe that a culture of personal betterment is the most important component to employee wellness and sustainable employee benefits.

As a leader in configurable, results-driven employee wellness programs, we evolve with you to help you meet your population’s needs over time.

With best-in-class reporting and measurable ROI, our plans target and reduce health risks and healthcare costs. Learn more about who we are and what we do.

Resources:

1 CNN. Employers are finding new ways to cut health care costs. Accessed January 18, 2019.
https://money.cnn.com/2018/08/07/news/economy/employer-health-care/index.html

2 The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). US Spending on Personal Health Care and Public Health, 1996-2013. Accessed January 18, 2019.   
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2594716

3 National Association of Health Underwriters. Healthcare Cost Drivers White Paper. Accessed January 18, 2019.
https://nahu.org/media/1147/healthcarecost-driverswhitepaper.pdf

4 Society of Human Resource Management. Managing Healthcare Costs. Accessed January 18, 2019.
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/managinghealthcarecosts.aspx

Topics: ROI, Corporate Wellness & Benefits

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