Category Archives: Healthcare costs

WELLNESS PROGRAMS IN THE WORKPLACE: ABLE ENGINEERING SHOWS THE WAY

It is no secret that Americans are growing less healthy by the day.  A report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently observed:

Over the last several decades, an epidemic of “lifestyle diseases” has developed in the United States:  Unhealthy lifestyles, such as inactivity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and frequent alcohol consumption, are driving up the prevalence of chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pulmonary conditions.  These chronic conditions have become a major burden, as they lead to decreased quality of life, premature death and disability, and increased health care cost.  Furthermore, although chronic disease was once thought to be a problem of older age groups, there is a shift toward onset during Americans’ working age that adds to the economic burden, because of illness-related loss of productivity due to absence from work (absenteeism) and reduced performance while at work (presenteeism).

Out of concern about the impact of chronic disease on employee health and well-being, the cost of health care coverage, and competitiveness, employers are adopting health promotion and disease prevention strategies, commonly referred to as workplace wellness programs.”

Does your company offer a wellness program?  If not, you may be missing out on healthier employees, increased productivity, and a leaner bottom line.

This edition of the HR Law Insider highlights Able Engineering’s successful wellness program, which has created healthier employees and reduced healthcare costs — the ultimate “win-win” for any organization.

ABLE ENGINEERING GETS HEALTHY AND SEES ITS HEALTHCARE SPENDING DECREASE BY 66% 

Able Engineering is located at the Phoenix-Mesa-Gateway Airport where its employees manufacture, repair and overhaul aircraft parts for the aviation aftermarket.  Able’s total employee count is around 500.   Able started its wellness program in the summer of 2010.  Since then Able has seen a 66% reduction in healthcare spend for employees that participate in the wellness program.

Able Engineering President, Lee Benson, believes:

“The end result with all wellness programs should be to reduce healthcare spend and have more alert, productive and generally happier team members.  Unless you go all in you simply won’t get the results.”

Here are some key aspects of Able’s wellness program:

  1. 10,000SF training/wellness facility on site with three full time trainers.
  2. Employees that train two days a week for an entire month get 100% of their health insurance premium covered the following month.   If not,  they pay 20%.
  3. Spouses and kids programs provided weekly.
  4. Random drug testing for nicotine performed regularly.   Any employees that come back positive are fired with no second chances.
  5. Healthy cafeteria access for all employees.
  6. Hiking, biking, running and team race clubs established.
  7. Personal training for employees that request it or have special needs.
  8. Supplements and protein drinks provided after every work out.

Benson is more than pleased with how his company’s wellness program is working:

“After rolling in the costs of full time personal trainers, cafeteria staff, subsidizing food, supplements and protein drinks, Able is saving over a million dollars a year by maintaining its wellness program.   The problem with most wellness programs is that they don’t go nearly far enough.   In addition to health insurance cost savings, Able team members have more physical, mental and emotional energy which in turn makes them a much more productive and high performance team!”

(Able Engineering CEO, Lee Benson)

DOES SIZE MATTER?

According to an Employer Survey, approximately half of U.S. employers offer wellness promotion initiatives, and larger employers are more likely to have more complex wellness programs.

Smaller employers often elect not to start a wellness program because of a concern about the monetary and administrative costs of a wellness program.  This is a legitimate concern for any company.  However, it can be minimized by first implementing low-cost measures and then gradually expanding the wellness program.

For most companies — large or small — it is not difficult to offer employee incentives to quit smoking, undergo a health risk assessment, or engage in healthy behavior. These are but a few examples of steps that most every employer can take to improve their employees’ health and reduce health care costs.

When it comes to considering whether to start a wellness program, every business owner should ask:  can I afford to ignore my employees’ health and well-being?

CAVEAT:  THERE ARE LIMITS TO ANY WELLNESS PROGRAM

Employers reaping the benefits of wellness programs continue to explore new ways to promote employee health and well-being — in turn reducing health care costs.  This is particularly so given the obesity and diabetes epidemic confronting modern day America.

Employers have a wide range of options, but should understand that a number of laws and regulations at the federal and state level impose requirements and regulate the use of financial incentives in certain types of wellness programs. With respect to certain employment based Wellness programs requiring that individuals satisfy health-related standards, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Affordable Care Act, among other things, limit incentives and require the availability of a reasonable alternative standard for  certain wellness programs if for an individual it is medically inadvisable to, or it is unreasonably difficult to, achieve the standard.

Consult with legal counsel and/or a wellness program professional if your company has any questions about starting or improving its wellness program.

CONCLUSION

Wellness programs offer the opportunity for companies to improve their employees’ lives and reduce costs.  Able Engineering is a shining example of this truth.

The HR Law Insider wishes everyone greater wellness in their lives.  In this regard, here is a video clip from the great Jack LaLanne on the benefits of treating ourselves well: