Expanded Wellness Program Helps Businesses Control Costs

After years of double-digit increases in health care costs, Lanco International achieved the seemingly impossible. The Chicagoland crane manufacturer recently lowered its health care spending by about $150,000, without reducing employee benefits.

Determined to wrestle its spiraling health care costs, Lanco turned to its insurance provider, UnitedHealthcare, to analyze its cost drivers. After discovering that back injuries and mental health claims were higher than expected, UnitedHealthcare helped Lanco launch a wellness program that changed employees' behaviors, ultimately improving their individual well-being and reducing Lanco's expenses at the same time.

The program has been a win/win situations for Lanco and its employees, says John Boquist, Lanco's vice president of human resources. "Our employees are happier and more vocal about their needs," he said, adding, "We're trying to control something that most people think is uncontrollable. It's a nice team effort between all of us at Lanco and UnitedHealthcare."

"UnitedHealthcare has long recognized the value of wellness programs that address not only physical well-being but also mental and emotional needs, said David Ellis, M.D., national medical director for Clinical Solutions at UnitedHealthcare. "Through UnitedHealth Wellness, we have brought together the full range of our existing wellness services with innovative and easy-to-use new tools and services into a single, comprehensive program designed to help people live healthier, well-rounded lives."

Ellis said the need for such a holistic approach to improving overall health and well-being is supported by a wide range of studies that have found, for example:

  • Chronic diseases related to lifestyle account for 70 percent of total health care spending.
  • Poor eating habits and lack of physical activity result in 400,000 U.S. deaths per year.
  • Better diet and exercise could reduce cancer rates 30 percent to 40 percent, or 300 million cases worldwide.
  • Obesity affects 59 million Americans, or 31 percent of all adults and 15 percent of children.
  • A large proportion of diseases and disorders, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and colon cancer are preventable.
  • Many modifiable health risks such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition, obesity, stress and smoking are associated with increased health care costs.
  • Modifiable health risks can be improved through workplace-sponsored preventive medicine and health promotion programs.

UnitedHealth Wellness features several components:

MyRenewell.com is an Internet-based total well-being program focused on fitness, nutrition and personal development. The Web site features interactive tools, including a total well-being survey; a wellness library with more than 20,000 scientifically researched articles; a marketplace with discounts for services such as health club memberships, fitness gear, weight loss programs and inspirational books and music; an interactive Pathways tool that enables people to set, monitor and reach health and fitness goals; quizzes, calculators and assessment tools for evaluating health and wellness; and journaling capabilities for tracking healthy lifestyle changes.

UnitedHealth Allies provides average discounts of up to 50 percent on many health care services not typically covered by medical, dental and vision plans. Individuals can save on chiropractic services, acupuncture and massage therapy, cosmetic dentistry, hearing devices, long-term care programs and laser vision correction.

Online Health Improvement programs help individuals make lifestyle changes and achieve health objectives in targeted areas. Individuals can choose from among a variety of 6-week programs; core program elements include healthy diet planning, a daily exercise program and tools and resources that promote improved health and well-being.

Online Personal Health Manager enables customers to securely record information about their health status or conditions, document medical contacts, create an emergency medical wallet card, store information from doctor visits, and print reports for their records. The tool allows the customer to grant access to individuals they approve, such as physicians, health care professional and family members.

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