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Focus on Well-Being Improves Worker Health While Lowering Costs

Focus on Well-Being Improves Worker Health While Lowering Costs

A company reduced healthcare costs during 5-year transition to a consumer-driven healthcare plan.

One company’s program to improve employee well-being led to improvements in worker health and productivity while decreasing health care costs, according to a case study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Following a “comprehensive, multi-year well-being improvement strategy,” the company was able to reduce health care costs and create “more engaged, healthy and productive employees” during the transition to a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP), according to the new research by Aaron Wells, PhD, of Healthways Inc., in Franklin, Tenn.

The study evaluated the long-term impact of a plan offering employees a range of benefits to promote well-being: for example, on-site fitness activities and intensive smoking cessation and weight loss programs.

Analysis of more than 2,000 individuals over five years found significant improvements in employee (and dependent) health and well-being. Average scores on a well-being index increased by 13.5 percent, mainly in the first two years of the program. The well-being improvement strategy also was associated with a 5.2 percent decrease in average health care costs. Obesity and smoking rates decreased by 4.8 and 9.7 percent per person per year, respectively.

Worker absenteeism declined, while productivity increased. All of these changes significantly were associated with the improvement in well-being scores.

As they prepare for the “Cadillac tax” provision of the Affordable Care Act, more companies are transitioning from self-insured to CDHPs, which call on employees to share more of the costs of care. By improving well-being, the company in the study hoped to offset the possible adverse impact of increased cost-sharing on worker health.

“Transitioning to a CDHP combined with a robust well-being improvement strategy is an effective means for both employer and employees to benefit,” the study authors concluded. “Both entities save money and are more productive as a result.”

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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