Your Employees’ Lifestyles Directly Impact Insurance Premiums

As health insurance premiums rise, corporate profits are vanishing. But with a long-term strategic plan, your company can help control these mounting costs. When the premium you pay the insurance company exceeds the cost of administration and claims or anticipated claims, you’re going to receive an increase.

Of the claims incurred in our country, 50% of them are directly related to your employees’ lifestyles. With a little help from management, these claims could be greatly reduced or avoided. Healthy employees reduce premium increases and increase productivity!

Here are three key ways to help your employees improve their lifestyles:

  1. Create a healthy office environment.
  2. Provide employees with a wellness company, one that uses a needs assessment, will design individual plans and incorporate coaching and accountability.
  3. Hire a disease management company. These companies typically work with employees who have one of the big five: asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heart disease. These are the most expensive medical conditions with the biggest return when managed properly.

Office or Work Environment
First, let’s set some new rules, whether they be written or implied, for a healthier workplace.

  • No smoking in the office. Granted, most offices are non-smoking. However, this needs to be extended to all company vehicles and at all corporate functions. In addition, the “smoking area” should be moved away from the building.
  • Nix the doughnuts and other gooey sweets, including the candy dish.Supply a fresh fruit bowl in the common area instead. If the sweets are a must, keep low-fat peppermint patties at the office. Peppermint is a known calming agent, and there’s just enough chocolate to keep your chocolate lovers satisfied.
  • Put scales in all the restrooms along with height and weight charts and full-length mirrors. You may not think anyone is paying attention, but you’d be surprised at how much use these tools will get. Research shows that people who lose weight and kept it off weigh themselves daily.
  • Subscribe to health and wellness magazines at the office and keep them in the break rooms. These publications will help keep health and wellness techniques on employees’ daily radar.
  • Create an annual corporate initiative around health. Or encourage participation by offering to sponsor employees in such events as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk or American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.

How Wellness and Disease Management Companies Can Help
In addition to making the office a healthier environment, involving your employees with a wellness company can and should be a big health and productivity plus to the organization. Research your current health insurance carrier’s Web site and you’ll see there are already a multitude of opportunities available to your employees to obtain wellness information, and discounts on gyms, products and other items pertaining to wellness.

To get your employees motivated to use the services already provided, have your HR team publish something from your health insurance carrier’s site at least monthly.

  • Smoking Cessation. The most successful stop-smoking programs use a step-down process to slowly wean employees off nicotine. At the same time, a coach works with them on habits or locations that trigger their desire for a cigarette. This helps the individual realize the causes and learn to be ready with either an alternative or avoid the situation.
  • Gyms and fitness training. Exercise does a great deal more than help control weight. It also adds much needed oxygen to the blood, strengthens bones and helps the body manage stress. According to LuAnn Heinen in her book Business Drivers of Health Risk Reduction: Today’s Costs, Tomorrow’s Trend, “One study showed claim cost reductions of around $2,200 per year in men over age 50 who went from being physically inactive (exercising 0-1 time per week or riding on the golf cart on Friday and calling that exercise) to physically active (exercising 3 or more times weekly). Eliminating this one significant risk factor was shown to save money after only one year.”
  • Disease management companies: Most disease management companies will charge your company a monthly fee for each employee participating in the program. Be sure to check what their success rate is and how they arrived at this number.

Most disease management companies, with the exception of Healthscreen, recommend giving a premium discount to employees who participate in the program. The problem is, once the employee gets used to the premium being taken from his pay, he or she completely forgets about the program. Healthscreen reduces prescription costs for the medical condition as long as the person actively participates in the program.

Be a Best Performer
Following the above steps can reduce the cost of claims. Heinen reported that companies who were aggressive in developing and executing lifestyle behavior change programs experienced on average only a 5% health insurance premium rate increase in 2004 and 2005. Companies who were considered poor performers in lifestyle management programs experienced a 15% premium rate increase or three times higher than the “Best Performers.”

Vistage member Victoria J. Braden is President/CEO of Braden Benefit Strategies, Inc., based in Norcross, GA.

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