Cut Health Care Costs with Wellness Programs

You can’t put a price on good health … or can you?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, it takes an estimated $13,000 annually to provide premium health care benefits to a typical employee and his or her dependents, with $10,000 of that annual amount paid by the employer. Health care costs have risen 10% each year for the past decade and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Further, the Centers for Disease Control tell us that 65% of people nationally are overweight or obese. Many struggle with associated physical conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, costing employers an additional $1,500 or more each year.

If these figures are giving your top management ulcers, there’s an easy and efficient remedy. Wellness programs let you offer benefits that attract top talent while keeping your bottom line under control. These programs are becoming increasingly popular among both large and small businesses. And employees are just as enthusiastic about this trend!

A recent Deloitte survey reports that 60% of employed consumers indicate they plan to actively participate in wellness and disease management programs to maximize their health status. The main incentive: concern about being able to afford health care insurance in retirement. As an employer, you can tap into this concern by encouraging healthier lifestyles now to help offset insurance expenses later in life – and help offset your costs today. For example, The Wellness Council of America found that every $1 invested into a wellness program yields a savings of $3 in health care costs.


In creating its wellness program, Xceed Financial Credit Union challenged its internal event and promotion committee, Team Xceed, to research other wellness programs within and outside the industry. The team then proposed its own program that focused on several core elements that contribute to overall health: physical fitness, community involvement, environmental “green” efforts, personal development, and weight loss.

The process was simple, assigning points to activities like running, playing volleyball, volunteering, donating blood, composting at home, taking a college course, cooking healthy or even carpooling to work. Associates logged their personal achievements on a daily and quarterly basis, with a cash payout of $300 awarded to each employee who hit the 1,000-point mark by the end of the year.

During the first year, 128 associates out of 213 participated in the program, with an accumulated point total of 104,603 – an average of 817 points per person. 56 associates broke the 1,000-point barrier. Feedback from participants has been very positive, including new ideas on how to accrue points through the online activity report. For example, one new associate is a guide-dog volunteer while another is part of a rowing club.

The program also offers printed wellness tips on the company intranet and in the associate newsletter. In 2011, the credit union hosted its first-ever health fair with 28 vendors. Staffers at the corporate headquarters were able to meet one-on-one and learn more about their benefits and options for a healthier lifestyle.

“It feels good to contribute to the health and well-being of our associates,” said Teresa Freeborn, Xceed Financial president/CEO. “We want to do all we can to help stabilize insurance costs, which is why we’ve invested in our own custom wellness program. Any reduction in insurance fees could then be passed on to our associates.”

There are as many variations on wellness programs as there are organizations. A little research and ingenuity will help your employees — and your business – strike a balance that’s healthy for everyone!

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