Employee wellness programs a good way to offset rising healthcare costs

The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from major U.S. companies, recently predicted that employer healthcare costs will continue to rise over the next decade, according to Business 360. In 2019, the cost burden will be more than $28,500 per employee, compared to $10,743 just 10 years earlier in 2009. In order to combat increasing healthcare costs, companies are looking to reduce the number of insurance claims through health plan reform and corporate health and wellness programs.

According to a December 2011 survey by global human resource intelligence provider Mercer, employers expected their costs to rise by nearly 12 percent in 2011 if changes to their health plans were not made. However, many planned to mitigate the rise to 7.4 percent as a result of reviewing plan designs and vendor costs. Additionally, more than a third indicated that they were planning to shift health benefit costs to employees by raising deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, coinsurance or co-payments, and 28 percent said they were going to increase employees’ premium contributions.

In an effort to avoid increasing the share of healthcare costs that its workers were responsible for, Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Midwest Metal Products implemented an employee wellness program last year that involved overhauling the contents of its vending machines, offering free flu shots on an annual basis, offering healthier lunches, holding health education classes and subsidizing the cost of glyconutritional supplements.

According to an internal survey, Midwest Metal Products employees who take part in the program – a little under half of the company’s workforce – have reported having more energy and enthusiasm, a greater degree of mental clarity and lower blood pressure. Additionally, many lost weight.

The city of Charlevoix, Michigan, saw similar changes after implementing a corporate wellness employee incentive program for its staff.

“It’s about money, but it’s not all about money – it’s about the people, and just getting them healthier,” the city’s human resources assistant, Jennifer Nash, told WPBN-7.

A total of 42 percent of city employees take part in the initiative, known as Ride the Path, which encourages healthy diet and exercise choices. Workers log their activity and can earn a variety of rewards, such as a free massage or a new pedometer. The grand prize winner is awarded time off.