Focus on Well-Being Improves Worker Health, Lowers Costs
One company’s program to improve employee well-being led to improvements in worker health and productivity while decreasing health care costs, reports a case study in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).
Following a “comprehensive, multiyear 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%, mainly in the first two years of the program.
The well-being improvement strategy was also associated with a 5.2% decrease in average health care costs. Obesity and smoking rates decreased by 4.8% and 9.7% per person per year, respectively.
Worker absenteeism declined, while productivity increased. All of these changes were significantly 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,” Dr. Wells and coauthors conclude. “Both entities save money and are more productive as a result.”
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