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Workplace Wellness: Good for Employees, Good for Business

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By: Anthony Matrisciano
May 21, 2013

May is National Employee Health and Fitness Month

Wilkes-Barre, PA — When Brian Rinker, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA), saw the numbers, he was impressed.  The local health insurer recently realized more than $1 million in higher employee productivity and lower health care costs through its workplace wellness program, Blue Health Solutions. 

Customized wellness programs through Blue Health Solutions are available to all customers of BCNEPA – and at no additional cost.

“It makes sense that employees who are less healthy and less productive cost businesses more money,” said Rinker.  “Embracing a strong employee health and wellness program like Blue Health Solutions can make a big difference in the overall health of an organization and its workforce.”

In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that approximately 75 percent of employers’ health care costs come from treating chronic, but preventable, conditions brought on by obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lack of physical activity.  And according to a recent Gallup poll, unhealthy workers are costing U.S. employers approximately $153 billion annually.

Additionally, the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) previously estimated that for every dollar spent on employee health initiatives, an organization can expect to see a return of $3 to $6 in reduced costs, improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and better medical insurance rates.

“Encouraging health and fitness can be something as simple as providing healthier choices in the employee cafeteria, offering quick and easy blood pressure checks or starting a walk-at-lunch club, all things we have done at BCNEPA,” said Rinker.

Positive Results

While national health care cost trend averages have remained near 8 percent since 2009 according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the average trend for BCNEPA employees and spouses engaged in Blue Health Solutions over the last three years is just 3 percent per year. 

Preventive screening rates for employees and spouses engaged in Blue Health Solutions are also significantly better than, or comparable to, the national benchmarks for most measures, and exceed non-wellness program participants across all measures.

Additionally, employees and spouses engaged in Blue Health Solutions who have chronic illnesses exceed compliance rates for evidence based guidelines in 10 of the 13 metrics, such as HbA1c (blood sugar level) tests, eye exams and cholesterol tests.

“These results not only show the benefits of workplace wellness for employers, they show how a workplace wellness program can make a difference in encouraging employees to make healthier decisions that will improve their overall health,” said Dr. Nina Taggart, Vice President of Clinical Operations and Chief Medical Officer for BCNEPA.

Improving Risk Factors

BCNEPA employees and spouses engaged in Blue Health Solutions also showed significant improvement with risk factor modification.  Risk factors are categorized into three levels – high, moderate and low – with those in the highest level at the greatest risk for health complications.  With Blue Health Solutions, individual risk factor levels are determined by a Health Assessment.

When comparing the 2012 Health Assessments of 642 employees and spouses to their initial Health Assessment responses, 39 percent had reduced their risk factors by at least one level and 38 percent maintained their risk levels.  Of those employees initially determined to be in the high risk category, 71 percent moved to a lower risk level.

“Ninety-eight percent of high-risk employees who moved to a lower risk level are currently enrolled in at least one Blue Health Solutions health and wellness management program,” explained Rinker.  “This really demonstrates the importance of the support and self-management tools that Blue Health Solutions provides – we can actually reduce risk factors that can lead to costly chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease.”

These significant risk factor modifications at BCNEPA have translated to improved worker productivity, with the total impact on productivity and cost savings calculated to be nearly $1.3 million in the one year

“That’s the final piece in the equation,” said Rinker.  “Healthier employees lead to lower care costs and higher productivity, which leads to a healthier bottom line.” 

With May being National Employee Health and Fitness Month, Rinker encourages employers to look at BCNEPA’s results. “Then consider how a workplace wellness program can benefit your employees – and your business.”

BCNEPA customers interested in starting a workplace wellness program through Blue Health Solutions can find tools and information online at:

About Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCNEPA offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to more than 540,000 individuals in 13 counties in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. The company’s mission is to provide integrated health care services and products to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the populations it serves.