Employers and employees have been hard hit by the soaring costs of providing company health care benefits and, in an attempt to lower costs, are initiating employee wellness programs as a way to decrease healthcare costs, reduce absenteeism, and increase productivity.
This fall I toured a successful Nebraska business and visited with their wellness team and company officials. During a walk-through of the plant, I talked with a number of workers about what they called their "culture of health". Everyone I talked to was pleased. Workers liked the incentives offered by the company to improve their health.
The wellness program at Lincoln Industries includes quarterly employee checkups, a tobacco-free campus, onsite tobacco cessation programs, health education seminars, gym reimbursements, free pedometers, incentives to improve health, and more.
The results are impressive and should encourage other businesses that haven't done so to start their own wellness programs that are aimed at coaxing workers to eat better, smoke less and exercise more.
Since 2000, tobacco use among Lincoln Industry employees has gone from 77 percent to 23 percent;
Health care costs per person are just over $3,500, less than half the industry average of almost $10,000;
In 2003, workers compensation costs were over $500,000; in 2006, these costs were less than $50,000
The health care reform law made a large investment in prevention and wellness programs. The law authorized $200 million in grants as incentives for small businesses.
Employers can offer increased incentives to employees for participation in a wellness program or for meeting certain health status targets beginning in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law will permit rewards or penalties such as premium discounts of up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage.
Additionally, the law appropriated $15 billion for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which will work to develop community wellness initiatives throughout the country and has already awarded millions in grants in Nebraska.
Workplace wellness programs are becoming more popular throughout the country and after this visit it's easy to see why. The employees are much healthier and both the boss and the workers are saving money.