Research suggests employers need occupational health professionals to help them design targeted workforce wellness interventions, encourage healthy behavior and develop meaningful rewards.

“While the health reform law has forced employers to evaluate their health care benefit strategies, they haven’t lost sight of the fact that controlling rising costs remains one of, if not their highest, priority. They have to foot the bill,” said Helen Darling, NBGH (National Business Group on Health) president.

“In fact, with cost increases expected to accelerate next year, many of the plan design changes employers are making are being done to help curb those increases, as they have to do every year.”

According to the NBGH survey:

• 70 percent will remove lifetime dollar limits on overall benefits;

• 64 percent will offer a high deductible plan combined with a health savings account;

• 63 percent will increase the percentage employees contribute to the premium;

• 61 percent will offer a consume redirected health plan;

• 46 percent will raise out-of-pocket maximums; and

• 25 percent plan to raise the co-pay or co-insurance for retail pharmacy prescription drug benefits.

Health Care Penalties

Use of Health Care Penalties:

% Companies That Impose or Plan to Impose Penalties

• Smoker surcharge 64%

• Require participation with disease management/lifestyle behavior programs

•or pay a penalty 50%

•  Require biometric screening or pay a penalty 45%

•  Require participation with a health coach or pay a penalty 25%

•  Require biometric improvements or pay a penalty (e.g., lower blood pressure, lower BMI) 17%

Source: AON Hewitt 2010 Health Care Trends Survey. N= 600 large companies

Methods for Designing a Wellness Incentive Program

According to Dr. Robert H. Haveman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the following basic principles should guide the development of any incentive arrangement:

1. Identify the desired outcome.

2. Identify the behavior change that will lead to the outcome.

3. Determine the potential effectiveness of the incentive in achieving the behavior change.

4. Link a financial incentive directly to this outcome or behavior.

5. Identify the possible adverse effects of the incentive.

6. Evaluate and report changes in the behavior or outcome in response to the incentive.

Similar steps are recommended by the Wellness Councils of America:

1. Determine what actions or behaviors you want to increase or decrease.

2. Research the values that would hinder adoption of the desired actions or behaviors.

3. Research and select formal and informal rewards that are feasible for inclusion in the incentive design while producing the largest behavioral change effect.

4. Develop incentive rules and examine them for unintended consequences.

5. Use focus groups of randomly selected employees picked to test the incentive system.

6. Develop a communications plan for the incentive program.

7. Field-test the incentive system.

8. Evaluate the field test, modify the design and implement organization-wide.

9. Follow-through as planned in implementation of the incentive program.

10. Periodically, at least annually, evaluate the effects of the incentive system and revise.

Popular Rewards

In terms of the most commonly used incentives, the types of wellness programs or activities being offered plays an influential role:

1.  Completion of a health risk assessment (HRA): The trend is moving away from a voluntary, non-rewarded approach to HRA completion and toward continued health benefit eligibility or use of a differential premium contribution for health plan coverage and modest cash rewards for completion.

2. On-site Activities: Participation in on-site wellness activities typically features rewards involving material goods or merchandise coupons.

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Central Coast IndustrialCare and Central Coast UrgentCare are located at Betteravia and Miller in the Ross Center, Santa Maria (across from Target)

The UrgentCare facility is open 8:00 AM to 7:30 PM Monday through Friday and

from 9 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturdays.   (805) 614-9000 www.ccurgent.com