Incentives Stabilize Health Care Costs
Hoffman has seen a 40 percent decrease in the risk for hypertension.
Five years ago, Hoffmann-LaRoche launched a series of wellness programs in anattempt to improve the overall health of the company and focus more dollars onearly detection and self-management of health risks. At the time, the companyspent roughly 2 percent of health-care dollars on prevention, and its goal wasto increase that to 10 percent, says Molly McCauley, director of healthpromotion.
"It’s a win-win approach for employees and the company," she says. "Alongwith reducing overall costs, the employees get improved health, and the companygets a more energetic, creative, and productive team."
The scope of the program is broad, encompassing two fundamental areas:primary prevention of disease and secondary care for existing conditions. Alongwith health screenings, the primary-prevention techniques include an on-sitefitness center, healthy-eating seminars, weight-management courses, and acafeteria menu filled with heart-healthy choices, McCauley says. The companyalso offers employees access to a wellness hotline, through a third-party provider, that they can call forhealth-education information, such as how to start a low-fat diet or exerciseprogram.
The secondary-care options include a self-care book from the Mayo Clinic,which is mailed to every employee. It gives advice on recognizing and managingsymptoms and determining when medical attention is necessary. Employees can alsotake advantage of an online self-care Web site that has information on hundredsof conditions.
The program has been unusually successful, McCauley says, estimating that 69percent of the population participates in the annual health-risk assessment. Sheattributes the program’s success to constant communication with employeesabout wellness offerings, education of employees about health risks, andconsistent and immediate follow-up for specific health needs.
"We are constantly looking at the risk profile of our population andtargeting the needs of the highest-risk people," McCauley says. For example,those employees who show high levels of stress in their risk assessments areinvited by a third-party vendor to participate in a six-week support programthat provides them with phone counseling, stress-management materials, andvideos. The first two years they offered that program, 29 percent of the entirepopulation participated.
The company also offers incentives through GiftCertificates.com to employeeswho take advantage of a certain number of programs. Each quarter, 10 to 12wellness activities are offered. To win a $25 gift certificate, employees mustparticipate in at least four of them.
Since the incentive program was implemented, participation has skyrocketed,McCauley says. On average, 8 percent of the population qualifies for the giftcertificate and an additional 20 percent takes part in at least one of thequarterly offerings. "That’s significant," McCauley says. "In the past,maybe 2 percent of the population took advantage of a wellness program."
For example, "lunch and learn" seminars on health topics, which used tohave fewer than 10 attendees, now commonly see 90 participants. "We had tomove the seminars from a conference room to an auditorium to accommodateeveryone." And even with the additional space, people are encouraged toregister early to ensure that they get a seat.
As a result of the increased participation and health awareness, Hoffmann-LaRochehas reduced levels of risk for many common diseases, including a 40 percentdecrease in the risk for hypertension and high blood pressure, a 20 percentreduction in the risk for alcohol abuse, and a 16 percent reduction in the riskfor illness related to poor eating habits.
The financial payoff of all of this reduction in risk has been profound.While most companies have regularly experienced annual double-digit increases,Hoffmann-LaRoche’s health-care costs have remained stable for the past fiveyears, McCauley says. She attributes the savings largely to the increase inhealth awareness. "We are absolutely convinced that if you educate employeesabout how to modify their health risks, you will avoid health-care costs."
Workforce, December 2002, pp. 75-76 -- Subscribe Now!