Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Buzz: Wellness Programs & High Deductible Health Plans

There are many benefits to implementing a wellness program for your employees, coupled with a high deductible health plan. A lot of attention has been placed recently on the pros and cons of implementing a wellness program as part of your group health care plan. Many large employers have put these types of programs in place in order to create a healthier population that will eventually lead to a reduction in claims and lower health care cost. Some have even gone so far as to add free work out facilities in their office building to promote getting in shape and creating healthier lifestyles. Work site wellness programs with the correct incentives can help support healthy behaviors.

It is argued that wellness programs can be effective in the early detection and prevention of serious diseases. Many wellness programs encourage and stress the importance of routine check ups in order to provide early intervention. A recent study indicated that an obese employee costs the employer an additional $2,400 in medical expenditures each year. Another large problem that has been oftentimes controversial is smoking. Smoking can increase the cost of health care $2,700 annually per employee. By providing some resources, education and services to assist in smoking cessation the employer can gain by creating a healthier population. Furthermore, up to 70% of claims cost is related to behavioral factors.

Some of the additional benefits of a work site wellness program include:

- enhanced recruitment and retention of healthy employees
- decreased rates of illness and injuries
- reduced employee absenteeism
- improved employee relations and morale
- increased productivity
- overall reduction in health care cost

One of the ways that an employer can promote participation in a wellness program is to provide financial incentives to employees who choose to enroll in the program. By creating additional employer contributions on behalf of the employees who join the wellness program, the employer can reward the people who work towards becoming healthier. These differing contribution levels are easily achieved by designing different options in the underlying plan of benefits in a partially self funded high deductible health plan.

The high deductible health plan is a great solution because the employees can maintain their current level of benefits while still carrying a Blue Cross Blue Shield or other fully insured carrier ID card. They will have the same access to their regular providers but the employer can take advantage of cost savings by partially self funding. By electing aggregate wrap stop loss insurance, the employer will pay no more than their fully insured renewal premium in the worst case scenario, but have everything to gain should claims run well. Furthermore, with a Health Savings Account in front of the partially self funded plan, the employees can decide how to best use their benefit dollars. One option is to allow different contributions to the health savings account by the employer depending on the employee's participation in the wellness program.

There are many different ways to design the plan and it can be flexible with the desires of the employer in the benefits he/she would like to offer the employees. The overall goal of both products is to save money on health care cost and promote a healthier environment and attitude. By adding a health savings account, the employees can decide what care and treatment to receive, as well as deciding where the best value is for their money. Consumerism and healthier tendencies are ever important in lobbying for more affordable health care.

Please visit this website for more information about wellness and HDHPs or to request information on obtaining a quote.

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