Tangerine Wellness Bends the Cost of Healthcare at O'Neal Steel

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Tangerine Wellness reduces the cost of healthcare by paying employees to lose weight and keep it off. O'Neal Steel not waiting for healthcare reform, uses Tangerine Wellness and sees results in three months.

“Obesity is a big cost issue and unfortunately, like many companies, it is difficult for us to contain healthcare costs with an unhealthy population. Now we can save money and shift those dollars to other valued employee benefits."

O’Neal Steel, the nation’s largest family owned steel service center, has found a way to curb the cost of healthcare: pay employees to lose weight and keep it off. In January 2009, O’Neal Steel implemented the Tangerine Wellness program, the incentive-based weight management program for employers that reduces the cost of healthcare. Thus far, employees have lost more than two tons of weight.

As the lively debate over healthcare reform continues, there has been frequent mention of bending the healthcare cost curve in the United States. By focusing on obesity, which makes up 10 percent of national healthcare costs, Tangerine drives down those costs for its clients through incentives for employees to lose and maintain healthy weights. Americans spent $147 billion last year on obesity-related medical costs, a heavy burden among employers.

The current healthcare reform debate includes the idea that wellness will play a vital role in reducing the cost of healthcare and at O’Neal Steel, that idea is a reality.

While the economy continues to challenge American businesses, O’Neal Steel, like many U.S. companies who use Tangerine Wellness, recognizes the importance of keeping their employees healthy and the cost benefit of providing a voluntary incentive-based weight management program. Tangerine Wellness saves, on average, 10 percent of healthcare costs year after year. When the program started at O’Neal Steel in January of 2009, 85 percent of participants were classified, based on their Body Mass Index (BMI), as overweight or obese. By July 2009, that number dropped to 78 percent. More significant was the drop in obese participants, from 54 percent to 41 percent.

“We feel strongly about O’Neal’s responsibility to help our employees be healthy,” said Craft O’Neal, Chairman of O’Neal Steel. “Obesity is a big cost issue and unfortunately, like many companies, it is difficult for us to contain healthcare costs with an unhealthy population. Now we can save money and shift those dollars to other valued employee benefits. Even I’m eating healthier.”

The Tangerine Wellness program is also working for 44-year old, Steve Baumgartner, Inside Account Manager at TW Metals, a subsidiary of O’Neal Steel that handles metals distribution. Baumgartner, who stands 6 feet tall and weighed 260 pounds in January 2009, has recently lost 16 pounds. Because Tangerine is a non-prescriptive program, Baumgartner decided to eat healthier, rather than choose among a number of commercially available diet plans also available on Tangerine. He has a weight goal of 215 pounds.

“I have high blood pressure which I need medication to control it, and also had high cholesterol before I started Tangerine Wellness,” says Baumgartner. “Since I’ve lost the weight and eat healthier foods, my doctor told me I could cut back on the blood pressure medication and that my cholesterol levels have improved. Plus with less weight, my knees don’t ache as much and I am more productive. I didn’t need to make a huge lifestyle change, but incremental ones that worked best for me. I eat more fruits and vegetables, eat smaller portions and snack less. I’m much happier now.”

Tangerine’s voluntary program offers incentives to employees who improve their health by achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The recurring quarterly program encourages weight management through individual rewards and teamwork. Tangerine Wellness lowers the cost of healthcare without forcing employees to participate in its program and increases the profitability of employers and employees by paying them cash or rewards to lose and maintain their weight. The long-term program is a simple, innovative solution to employers’ healthcare costs woes because it tackles the most controllable and expensive health condition – obesity.

“We understand that not all health costs are controllable, but by cutting costs related to the things we can control, like obesity, companies will have the ability to keep providing health coverage for their employees and put the individual participants on the path to better health,” said Aaron Day, chairman and CEO of Tangerine Wellness.

O’Neal Steel is not new to wellness. In addition to health club subsidies, health coaching, on site flu shots, smoking cessation incentives and other individual health and wellness workshops and communication, O’Neal Steel has administered their own weight loss competition and had amazing success. But the administrative difficulty of running the program means they can only offer it for three months a year.

“Tangerine Wellness gave us the ability to have an ongoing program that eliminated the yo-yo effect of short term weight loss competitions,” said Donna Cornwell, human resources supervisor for O’Neal Steel. “Many of our top executives participate and with Tangerine Wellness, we can reward healthy employees too.”

Nearly 700 employees participated in the Tangerine Wellness program at 29 of O’Neal’s 78 locations throughout the U.S. Employees are now gearing up for their next quarter as the program rolls out to more locations.

Tangerine's customized, fully outsourced program includes a suite of online and offline services. By offering cumulative rewards, and allowing participants to track their results online, Tangerine keeps the program interesting and easy for its participants.

“Tangerine’s web site is fun and interactive,” said Cornwell. “Employees can check their progress and don’t have to wait to get their results back. It’s a hands-off way for us to allow employees access without crunching numbers behind the scenes.”

About Tangerine Wellness
Founded in 2004, Tangerine Wellness is the leading corporate weight-management program that directly rewards employees for losing weight and for maintaining a healthy weight. Tangerine's interactive weight-loss program has a direct and positive effect on employee healthcare costs, morale and productivity. Tangerine has successfully implemented programs in the manufacturing, financial services, healthcare and government/university entities that are translating into direct healthcare cost-savings. The company's collective leadership includes Sen. Bill Bradley and top executives with expertise in corporate wellness, healthcare and benefits administration. Tangerine is headquartered in Bedford, New Hampshire, with offices in Chicago, Houston and New York. Go to http://www.tangerinewellness.com for further information.


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Anne Steinberg
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