Businesses justify worker incentives

May 1, 2007

NATIONAL REPORTS-Corporate wellness programs are top-of-mind for the majority of large, and even many mid-size employers, according to industry experts.

NATIONAL REPORTS-Corporate wellness programs are top-of-mind for the majority of large, and even many mid-size employers, according to industry experts.

HEALTH CULTURE

"We seek to empower individuals to manage their health by giving people the information, the tools and the benefit design geared toward them becoming as healthy as they can be," Brent Pawlecki, MD, associate medical director at Pitney Bowes, tells MANAGED HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVE.

Education, increased awareness, preventive screenings and value-based benefits are essential for a successful corporate wellness program. These programs are provided in partnership with health plan offerings, says Dr. Pawlecki.

Pitney Bowes' Health Care University (HCU), originally launched in 1993, was designed to provide employees with the environment, the tools and the motivation to enhance their health and well-being.

"In response to rapidly rising healthcare costs, we expanded HCU for our employees nationally in 1999," he says. "The program offers rewards for maintaining healthy behaviors. Progress is self-reported by employees via an on-line or telephonic, interactive tool which improves knowledge, skills and behaviors related to health improvement, disease management and self-care."

HCU DOLLARS

Employees who complete a health risk assessment in the beginning of the year earn $75 in a Health Savings Account (HSA). Employees who complete one or two progress reports within the year can earn additional $75 to $150, for a total of $225, for use in their benefits selection in the following year.

According to Dr. Pawlecki, Pitney Bowes is seeing $2 to $3 of return for every $1 invested in its health improvement programs.

"Over a three- to four-year period, we compared our overall costs for diabetes and asthma against a Hewitt Associates benchmark of other companies and were thrilled with the results," he says. "Over time, we've seen ourselves about 30% below that benchmark and at the same time we are providing what we think is a quality and innovative offering to our employees."

In 2001, Pitney Bowes introduced a cost-sharing model for pharmaceuticals and implemented the program in 2002.

"The move altered our copayment policy to lower or even [zero] employee payments for what we identified to be the top three drivers of healthcare costs associated with our employees: diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease," Dr. Pawlecki explains. "Consequently, we cut our costs by 8% for the treatment of employees living with diabetes, and saved 16% for those with asthma. Additional benefits were realized when you factor in absenteeism, productivity and disability claims . . . as well as the overall health of our employees."