Colonial Life paper links health care cost containment to wellness programs

By National Underwriter

National Underwriter


By Warren S. Hersch

Businesses can cut worksite health care costs by implementing an employee wellness program and by having an effective communications program to spur employee participation.

That’s a key finding of a new white paper, “Well on the Way: Engaging Employees in Workplace Wellness,” released by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, Columbia, S.C. The study uses proprietary and industry research and case studies to show how wellness initiatives can help employers control rising health care and benefits costs, and how benefits communication render the programs more effective.

The white paper indicates that “clear communication of program benefits and incentives for participation” by employees is a key first step in insuring the effectiveness of a wellness program. The paper cites a recent Colonial Life survey, which found that nearly 10% of employees reported having little or no understanding of their benefits packages. And slightly more than half of the employees whose employers offered wellness programs said they were only somewhat or not at all knowledgeable about them.

Lack of knowledge about the programs, the paper adds, is significantly higher among younger workers, less educated workers and those with lower household incomes.

One-to-one employee communication, delivered in partnership with a benefits provider partner, offers a cost-effective means to enhance engagement in these programs. Citing research validating the effectiveness of one-to-one communication, the paper notes that nearly all (96%) of employees who meet individually with benefits counselors say the communication improves their understanding of their benefits packages.

The survey says that wellness programs typically include biometric screenings (such as height and weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels). The programs also encompass health risk assessments to identify risk for disease, as well as online or paper-based education materials, fitness center access, nutrition classes, group fitness challenges, behavior and lifestyle coaching, mental and emotional health services and disease management services.

The paper recaps a 2012 Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health survey of employers, the survey noting that companies that have been successful in lowering their health care costs over four years outpaced their peers in two areas: (1) investing in programs that engage employees in living healthier lifestyles; and (2) altering benefit plan designs to increase employee participation and provider accountability.

Originally published on LifeHealthPro.com