Cost control in group health care insurance is not a one and done thing. Measures put in place one year might produce results in the short term but each of the following benefit periods will most likely require additional modifications and new strategies. It’s a never-ending battle. Strategies need to be evolving, not stagnant.
We had worked to control costs with one of our large clients (just over 250 employees) a few years ago and successfully managed to stem the rate of increases through a couple renewals with a modified benefit plan structure and new funding strategies. Unfortunately, when insurance premium increases began to accelerate again it was time to do further analysis and come up with new cost control strategies.
One idea we had previously proposed but was passed over by the business owner at the time was back in discussion this time… the implementation of a wellness plan. We affirmed that a properly designed wellness program, according to various research, returned $3-$5 in savings for every dollar invested in the program by the employer. Effectively designed wellness programs can help prevent illnesses, reduce the costs associated with health care issues, lower the rate of employee absenteeism and boost employee morale.
Our outline for a successful wellness program design encompassed the following critical aspects:
- Commitment from corporate leadership…a successful program starts with a commitment from all levels of management, right up to company owners. The health and well-being of every employee needs to be incorporated into the company’s “vision” or mission statement.
- Creation of a health culture within the organization… developing policies, practices and activities in the workplace that focus attention on the employee’s emotional, physical and social well-being.
- Communication and education…raising awareness of the specifics of the program through frequent, varied-in-style, customized to the target audience notifications so employees are all aware of the program resources and potential impacts.
- Employee ownership in the program…making employees feel that ownership truly cares about them and it’s not just a cost control effort. Gathering employee feedback about what they’d like in the program, what works and what doesn’t and how to improve the future direction of the program will all help the employees become and remain engaged for success.
- Incentives…to increase employee motivation for participation and achieving self-determined health goals.
After establishing a committee consisting of employees and management to discuss and design a program tailored to the company, we chose a vendor and implemented the program. After two years on the program the results are becoming clear…a culture of “well-being” has become ingrained in the corporate “family”, employee morale is up, there’s been a 15% reduction in employee absenteeism and the last medical premium increase was 20% lower than the average of the prior 5 years.