The Wave of the Future…interesting…

 ”More U.S. employers tie health insurance to medical tests”…Of the employers who offer wellness programs, about one-third offer financial incentives to those who undergo specific medical tests, according to an Aon Hewitt survey.

doctor stethoscope smile“Today, many offer discounted premiums to workers who meet standards related to blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, with the value of those discounts running between $30 and $60 a month, says Jim Pshock, founder and CEO of Bravo Wellness in Avon, Ohio. Although employers may set specific goals — such as a body mass index (BMI) below 30, the level considered obese — many also reward achievement of less daunting targets. One employer rewarded workers if their test results didn’t worsen, Pshock says.”

Hmmm….I think I’ve heard that “don’t get worse” thing before :-) .

 ”In 2010, one firm added a cash bonus program, offering $50 to workers who get a physical and another $50 for every one of four medical tests they take: weight, blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol, plus an extra $50 if they do all the tests. If they meet specified goals — or complete a coaching program — they receive the money as a cash bonus. Last year, 65% of employees participated.”

But what do they have to show for it??

“While it’s early, he says, indications are the program is having an impact on costs: Health spending rose 6% in 2010, but only 3% in 2011.”

How’s that for return on investment!? Or maybe it’s not just about money,…

One not-for-profit Executive Director says of his 8-year old wellness program that the company’s approach keeps health “at the forefront of what people are thinking about.”

“Our long-term goal is to make health and well-being part of our culture and everyday values.  When people start doing it naturally and you don’t have to pay them for it, that’s when you know you’ve succeeded.”

Ahhh….music to my ears.

Overall a good read – or if you’d prefer, check out the 3 min, 35 sec video at the beginning.


Obese Find Telephone Counseling on Weight Loss Most Effective

If you haven’t heard the term “health coach” by now, then consider yourself out of the loop. Worry not! Read on so you can be in-the-know…

overweight man on telephoneAccording to our trusty friend, WikiPedia, Health Coaching is defined as:

“…a method of guiding others to address their health and, if need be, make behavioral changes to improve health. Like traditional coaching, health coaches utilize goal setting, identification of obstacles, and use of personal support systems. The relationship between the coach and coachee is an accountability partnership focused on the overall health outcome goals as defined by healthcare practitioners and the patient/coachee.”

Now for the good news – A study, funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, found that regular phone calls from a health coach helped obese patients drop 5 percent of their body weight and keep it off for two years! Researchers said this has been one of the most effective approaches yet.

In fact, 53 percent of people who received telephone, e-mail and website counseling lost the weight after six months, the study said.

Does Shift Work Raise Diabetes Risk?

According to this CNN Health Reportit does.

sleepless womanHere’s why – Sleep deprivation and irregular sleep-wake cycles can lead to insulin resistance and rising blood-sugar levels.  This can throw off your body’s natural ability to burn calories at rest, since our circadian rhythms play a critical role in maintaining healthy metabolism.

“Compared to nurses who worked days only, those who worked periodic night shifts for as little as three years were 20% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while those who clocked at least 20 years of shift work were nearly 60% more likely to develop the disease.”

So what should that mean to you?  Well, one-fifth of the U.S. workforce is on some kind of rotating shift schedule.  If you, the employer,  have an aging, primarily female employee population that works alternating shifts, then you likely have a lurking contributor to an already existing American epidemic.

Is your company down with the “Net Generation”?

This past weekend, as I watched my almost-four-yr-old son get frustrated with the 10-second bootup pause on our iPad, I was reminded of how small our windows of patience have become.

Is our time that prescious that we can’t possibly find comfort in actually waiting for something? 

In my younger days, if you were lucky enough to own an Atari system, you waited a long while but in grateful anticipation for the clunky magic box to take you to a multi-pixeled world of brilliance!

wait for computerIt’s not just kids either!  These days you have approximately 3-5 seconds to capture your aging workforce’s attention – so you better make it count.  When it comes to communicating about healthcare, an expert at the annual International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Conference had this to say;

“Email and websites are becoming outdated when communicating with health plan participants as social media moves to the forefront,…”If employers fail to use sites such as Facebook or Twitter they risk losing engagement with the ‘net generation,’ or those born between 1977-1997, says Kevin L. Wolfe, vice president in The Segal Company’s Chicago office.

Speaking Monday at the 57th annual conference in New Orleans he said: “Think about this . . . we have this young group of people moving through the workforce and they’ve grown up bathed in bits and bytes,” including broadband Internet access, iPods and iPhones.

What does this mean for you? 

Keep this in mind when planning your company’s communication strategy for 2012…

The ‘net generation’ processes information so differently compared to those who were born before them, said Wolfe, who is in Segal’s administration and technology consulting practice. “They want to customize things, they are not used to going to some website, they are used going somewhere and making it custom.”

By using social media to engage them, it becomes more than pushing information; it’s a dialogue that the ‘net generation’ relies on, he says, “an exchange between like-minded individuals.”

Yours in Good Health,
Tesia M. Woodworth

Overweight Americans cost billions in productivity!

…or at least that’s what a recent Gallup-Healthways study found.

fat and thin man“Compared with non-overweight healthy workers, the 86% of U.S. workers who have weight or health issues, or both, miss an estimated 450 million extra days of work a year, the study said.   The $153 billion in annual lost productivity costs linked to unhealthy or overweight workers in the United States is more than four times the cost found in Britain.

Full-time workers who were not overweight and suffered no chronic health conditions averaged only about four days per year.  At the other end of the scale, overweight workers with three or more chronic health conditions reported an average of about 42 unhealthy days per year!”

What should this mean to you, the employer?  Well for starters, if employee health wasn’t a concern in your business before – let this be a serious wake up call!  Actively managing the obesity levels at the workplace will directly correlate to absenteeism and productivity rates.

If all else fails, you could move your company to Britain.

Read the full article here.


Some Agencies Pay for Exercise Breaks !

Sound unrealistic?  Not for some employers.  In fact – they’ve taken it to the next level by empowering employees to use company time to be physically active.

woman exercisingSome military based agencies in the southern part of the United States are finding success doing just that.

Personnel Cabinet spokeswoman Crystal Pryor says the “wellness breaks” are cost effective because they result in “reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, higher employee morale and lower health care costs for the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan, the state’s self-funded insurance program.”

Pryor noted a Harvard University study published last year that found that “medical costs fall about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs, and absentee day costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.”

Check out more here.

Designing Wellness Incentives – Part II

Still struggling with employee participation rates?  You should have read Part I of the Wellness Council’s of America’s Special Report on Designing Wellness Incentives.

So, ready for the exciting conclusion?


This is Part II of the two-part review on the Wellness Councils of America’s Absolute Advantage publication “Designing Wellness Incentives”.

hands giving cashIn this edition they analyze incentive options from paid time off, to cash, to benefits-related, and everything in between.  They do an extremely thorough job exploring each possible incentive, advantages and disadvantages, common forms of each, as well as the implementation considerations and difficulties.

While I found the first half of the research to be mentally exhausting, the second half offers some valid and practical suggestions (albeit from 2005) for enhancing your existing offerings.  So, if nothing else – read pages 42-50.  That should help you do a mental inventory of which components your program may be missing.

Until next time!  Enjoy!

Designing Wellness Incentives – Part I

Need ammo to justify that budget spend?

man staring at carrot

WELCOA’s (Wellness Councils of America) recently published Absolute Advantage (Volume 4/#7) provides an in-depth look at designing wellness incentives in the workplace.  This is Part I of a two-part publication.


In an unassuming way, they first take you on the magical journey to explore the reasonings behind WHY you should want to provide incentives in the first place, citing such things as: to encourage participation, to encourage initiation and maintenance of positive health behaviors, and to encourage the accomplishment of personal health goals.

Writers David Hunnicutt and Larry Chapman do an extensive job of outlining tangible and intangible rewards, acknowledging both advantages and disadvantages of each.  Do more than just skim this section—you may be surprised by the nuggets you find!

I highly recommend the last section’s segment on “Guidelines for Making Incentives Powerful“.  Companies who are on the fringe of providing outcomes-based incentives should find this particularly intriguing.

Tune back in next week for my brief review of Part II!

Value-based benefit incentive challenge REJECTED in Broward County FL!

Were you following this case with bated breath, like I was, to see if you could continue with your company’s wellness program without being hauled off to the courtroom?!?!

court gavelIf so, looks like it’s good news for both of us! In Seff v. Broward County, a court case that raised the issue of whether an employer’s wellness program was “voluntary” or not, has just been denied further pursuance by a Federal District Judge. Bradley Seff, a now former Broward County employee, claimed that the wellness program was discriminatory and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by offering a $20 per pay period incentive for those who participated in a health risk assessment.

Since his lack of participation did not lead to a denial of coverage, this is not considered a legitimate argument and was therefore denied further litigation. The Court found that the employer’s actions were protected by the ADA’s safe harbor provisions; it did not decide the employer’s alternative argument that the wellness program was a voluntary wellness program under the ADA. Yay for employer wellness plans!

See the class action suit here.

For the judge’s actual ruling, click here.

Can Health Coaching lead your employees to better health??

“Health Coaching” is becoming recognized as a new way to help individuals “manage” their illnesses and conditions, especially those of a chronic nature. Health coaching is a method of guiding another to “discover” and address their own ambivalence to health behavior change.

healthy coachA recent article featured in Employee Benefit News investigates the type of outreach needed to generate a 3:1 return on investment. Citing such things as; consumer empowerment, multimedia, member engagement and evaluation techniques, this literature touts a 10.1% reduction in annual hospital admissions and a per member per month cost determined to be $7.96 lower for those who receive coaching support.

Aside from the evidence of hard costs, I appreciate the inclusion of the broader scope of services that allowed for such a savings like health risk assessments and biometric screenings for preventative awareness, robust communication, education and an engagement strategy.

Bottom Line: While this approach seems daunting at first glance, health coaching is an emerging resource that employers need to have in their toolbox.

See the full article here.

Relph Benefit Advisors | 1150-G Pittsford-Victor Road, Pittsford, NY 14534-3825 | 1-800-836-0026 | www.relphbenefitadvisors.com