New Wellness Whitepaper: Programs Universally Acknowledged, Financially Misunderstood

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White paper explores steps that employers can take to improve the health of their employees and generate a positive return on investment that can lead to lower health care benefit costs.

Stages of Wellness

When clients experience a substantial increase in premiums, they recognize that they need to do something. When they feel they cannot continue to increase premiums and need to consider new ways to keep costs down, they turn to wellness.

As the benefits from a properly executed wellness initiative are becoming more universally understood, employers are learning that the way a program is launched and how it is supported over time is just as important as the number of free gym memberships handed out and the types of snacks in the company vending machine.

Nearly all (99.4 percent) of top decision makers consider corporate health care costs and 86.6 percent consider the impact on employees to be either a critical or significant concern, according to the 2010 UBA Employer Opinion Survey. “The ability of employers to afford their health care benefits has become more of a factor this year than in our last survey, affecting 44 percent of employers,” said Bill Stafford, vice president of member services and surveys for UBA.

Research shows that employers clearly recognize the potential impact of employee health management programs on future plan costs, and more companies are beginning to explore the value of wellness programs.

"Employers understand the importance of helping employees ward off disease and prevent illness through preventative care, screenings and healthier lifestyles. This is an investment in their most important asset - their employees," said Deenie Robertson, CWPC, an account executive for health and lifestyle management with The Wilson Agency, a member of United Benefit Advisors, in Anchorage, Alaska. "However, due to the economy and uncertainty behind health care reform, many clients seem to be holding back on spending the money on wellness. But when clients experience a substantial increase in premiums, they recognize that they need to do something. When they feel they cannot continue to increase premiums and need to consider new ways to keep costs down, they turn to wellness."

For many employers, kick-starting a full-blown wellness program can be overwhelming. The secret, several UBA Member Firms say, is just like healthy eating: Exercise good portion control and don't bite off more than you can chew. Starting small and implementing just a few features in the beginning can allow a company and the participants to focus on achievable goals. As a company adopts more programs, its culture accepts more "buy-in" to wellness, and participation increases - which can translate into real savings, according to several UBA Member Firms.

No matter the program, employers eventually expect to see a return on investment (ROI), and wellness initiatives are no exception. However, many employers overlook the return on value (ROV) that is inherent during the early stages of a program that may not show up on the bottom line, experts say. Ultimately, the question of value must be determined by the company, based on its specific and unique objectives.

Karen Kelly, a registered nurse and director of health and wellness with Borislow Insurance of Methuen, Mass., suggests that employers should acknowledge ROV early and evaluate their progress after completing a new program or reaching another milestone. Also, it doesn't hurt to make a little noise to the bosses when the program succeeds, Kelly notes. "Celebrate all successes no matter how small, like an employee losing weight, or quitting smoking. Your co-workers and leadership will respond with, 'Yes, this is really working,' " Kelly said.

United Benefit Advisors, is a member-owned alliance of more than 140 premier independent benefit advisory firms with offices in more than 165 offices throughout the U.S, Canada and the U.K., and is one of the nation's top five employee benefits advisory organizations. UBA Members collaborate with more than 2,000 professionals to provide best in class solutions that positively impact employers and make a real difference in the lives of their employees and families. Employers, advisors and industry-related organizations interested in obtaining powerful results from our shared wisdom should visit UBA online at to locate your local UBA Member Firm.

Bill Olson
Marketing Manager


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