As medical costs continue to rise globally, many employers are seeking innovative solutions to better manage their employee benefits spend. Health Improvement and wellness programs are in growing demand as a way to reduce rising medical costs, minimize the impact of disability related claims, and to promote employee productivity and healthy lifestyles. Ranging in complexity from employee communications and health risk assessments to biometric screenings and targeted intervention programs, wellness programs are a hot topic among employee benefits managers.
For employers, these programs are a way to improve employee attendance and productivity and reduce health care costs. For employees, health improvement programs provide opportunities to lead healthier lifestyles, manage chronic illnesses, reduce stress, and improve their psychological well being.
At Marsh & McLennan Agency we have developed and implemented comprehensive wellness programs for many employers. We recommend developing a multi-year strategy, with each year progressing in the breadth and scope of the program and use of premium contributions and benefits to differentiate those who are actively participating and/or improving their lifestyles and controllable risk factors.
Employers must implement wellness programs to strategically impact medical trend and their health care dollars. We use fact based data and analysis which is critical to understand what to focus on, and our customized employee communications result in wellness programs being done "with employees" instead of "to employees" which leads to greater success.
We are well versed in the HIPAA wellness guidelines and have benefit attorneys who act as resources where needed regarding both federal and state law. We have many ideas on how to incent employees without costing the employer additional money and have implemented these successfully.
Why Health Improvement Programs Work
Employers and employees are both frustrated by the continued rapid increase in medical costs. So much cost shifting has occurred that we are beginning to erode the value of the benefit plan. Other drivers of medical trend, such as the U.S. demographics, technological advancement, and new drug development cannot be controlled by the employer. The focus has to be on reducing unnecessary utilization and the only way to reduce utilization is to focus on developing a healthier workforce. In addition, the employer is in the best position to incentivize employees to change. Given this is a multi-year process; the employer needs to have a clearly defined health improvement strategy.
Employers have many questions on health improvement and wellness plans:
- Are there different ways to incent your employees to participate and change their behavior?
- Do participation levels vary based on different incentives or level of incentives?
- What are the financial impacts to the employer under different options?
- Is there an acceptable return on investment for the time and effort associated with these programs?
At MMA, we work with client's everyday to answer these questions and make sure they get the appropriate value and return from their health improvement programs.