With the advent of health care reform, employers have a wide range of new opportunities for managing costs and improving employee health, productivity and lost work time. In today's changing environment, businesses and HR managers have a spectrum of solutions available to help employees take ownership of their health. These include consumer-directed plan designs, provider contracting and delivery arrangements, transparency tools, alternative retiree funding arrangements, and various other strategies.
Many employers are managing to bend the cost curve — and in some cases actually lower health care costs — by strategic use of wellness programs. According to a Health Affairs report, every dollar employers spend on wellness programs reduces medical costs by $3.27 and absenteeism costs by $2.73.1 When companies implement programs that successfully reduce employee health-risk factors and help employees better manage chronic illness — the primary drivers of health care costs — they emerge as winners.
'Carrots' and 'sticks': the new face of wellness programs
Still, a common challenge most employers face is achieving sustained employee participation and engagement. As a result, the new generation of wellness programs is ratcheting up plan requirements by rewarding results and outcomes, in addition to activity. Employers are attempting to encourage program participation by aggressively incorporating both "carrots" and "sticks" — including premium discounts, premium surcharges, contributions to health savings accounts, and lower deductibles and co-pays. Regardless of the approach they choose, employers cannot achieve results without widespread participation.
Unum's wellness integration approach
Unum's approach to encouraging employee engagement is to introduce some simple wellness participation requirements into our Short Term Disability plan design. In this approach, eligibility for disability benefits is tied to employee participation in a client's health and wellness plan, or outcomes from participating in that plan.
"Today's employers are looking for benefits strategies that provide links and connections between health, wellness and disability," said to Randy Ford, assistant vice president of Strategic Partnership Development. "Working together to broaden the employer's approach can lead to more effective integration strategies. By bringing these interconnected concepts together, Unum can help employers maximize their benefits programs, engage and motivate their employees, and meet their budget and expense needs — all while providing a robust and attractive benefits plan."
Our wellness integration plan is just one example of how you and your customers can benefit by leveraging all the Unum resources available to you.
For more information, contact your Unum representative.
1 Katherine Baicker, David Cutler and Zirui Song, “Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings,” Health Affairs (Vol. 29, no. 2, 2010), as cited in SHRM, 2013 Employee Benefits: An Overview of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S. (2013).