Seattle county announces healthcare savings attributed to incentive program

Private sector companies have long reaped the financial and emotional rewards associated with corporate health and wellness and other incentive programs but one Washington county recently announced it expects to save a substantial amount of money from implementing its own incentive-based wellness program.

According to The Seattle Times, employees of King County are becoming healthier and the evidence is showing in numbers with the county reporting an estimated $23 million in healthcare savings shaved off the budget this year and a projected $38 million in savings planned for 2012.

The surge in healthcare savings can be attributed to the incentive program the county adopted six years ago that rewards employees for kicking unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking and obesity. Participating employees take part in a comprehensive health assessment followed by a 10-week system aimed at improving their health in all facets including nutrition, physical activity, and weight and stress management.

“Our Healthy Incentives plan is succeeding, containing costs better than we could have hoped,” Dow Constantine, King County executive, told the newspaper. “Our Healthy Incentives plan is succeeding, containing costs better than we could have hoped.”

The county isn’t the only one benefiting from reduced healthcare costs and a healthier workforce, aside from the obvious health benefits, employees also see a financial return as they experience lower deductibles and co-pays by taking part in the plan and in the long run by establishing a healthy lifestyle.

Corporate health and wellness programs aren’t the only way employers are providing incentives for their employees. Young America, an incentive marketing firm, recently released a study on prepaid card programs and their effectiveness in luring employees from other companies and retaining valuable employees.

“As many companies cope with across-the-board salary freezes and other austerity measures to control costs, employers who want to retain their best employees admit they have fewer resources to do so, and many are turning to structured incentive programs, which cost less than salary increases and often result in high levels of employee productivity, positive feedback and loyalty,” said Joe Custer, president of Young America. “We are seeing an uptick in activity from corporate HR departments that are looking to centralize their current incentives program, create a new program or increase or replace their existing one.”