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Do wellness programs work? Interview with Corporate Health Partners

Interview with Jeremy Curtis, Corporate Health Partners 

With the changing healthcare landscape, employers are looking for new ways to cut healthcare costs. Some may choose wellness programs. Today, we’re profiling a wellness company here in Nashville, Corporate Health Partners. 

Tell us a little about your company?

I really shouldn’t have an industry. What I mean is our business in corporate wellness shouldn’t need to exist because individuals should be healthy on their own. However, this isn’t the case. Individuals are struggling with poor health and conventional medicine isn’t fixing the problem.  According to World Health Rankings, the U.S. spends the second most per capita on healthcare than any other advanced economy, but we are 46th in overall health rankings. The paradox is that each year we spend more on “healthcare”, but our prevalence of disease and obesity are still rising rapidly. There’s something wrong with that picture. At CHP, we take wellness programs to the next level with our comprehensive approach to prevention. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.    

How does healthcare reform play a role in what you do? 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says that employers in an employer-sponsored group health plan can charge non-participating employees up to 30% more than their non-participating coworkers. The same percentages can apply towards outcomes based programs; meaning certain health factors need to be in pre-established healthy ranges. In fact, if the health factors include tobacco usage, the employee premium differential can go up to 50% of the total cost of individual coverage premiums (employee + employer paid) for properly designed programs. 

For instance, assume that an employer-sponsored group health plan has an annual premium for employee-only coverage of $10,000 (of which the employer pays $7,500 per year and the employee pays $2,500 per year). The plan offers employees a health-contingent wellness program focused on exercise, blood sugar, weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. The reward for compliance is an annual premium rebate, not to exceed $3,000, which is 30 percent of the total annual cost of employee-only coverage ($10,000 x 30 percent = $3,000). This aspect of the law means that an employer can penalize employees who make poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking.  

Corporate Health Partners will conduct onsite biometric screenings and online Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) to determine risk stratification for each participant. From this point the real work begins. Depending on a participant’s score, they are stratified into High, Moderate, Low or Healthy status and assigned a predetermined frequency of coaching sessions throughout the year depending on an organization’s budget. For example, a high-risk participant may have one coaching sessions per month while a moderate-risk person may have one session every other month and so on. 

To use an analogy, once a diagnostic is run on a failing vehicle, the vehicle isn’t fixed until a trained professional repairs the issues. Most wellness companies stop after the diagnostic.  Some wellness companies phone in the repairs. How successful would you be with a wrench and a screwdriver and a professional on the other end of the phone? We provide help onsite, in person, all year long. Changing behavior and culture throughout the year is key to lowering risks. 

Why does employee wellness matter? 

Employers spend an average of $10,417 a year in health care costs with employees contributing an average of $2,303 for their portion.  A healthy employee is obviously going to have less direct medical costs. In addition, they are more productive, their morale is typically better, they miss less work, and are less likely to have an injury. Obesity is a well, . . . huge issue. With so much of the population struggling with obesity, what employers often don’t realize is that when one of those employees is diagnosed with diabetes, this will cost the company about $13,700 per year. If that person requires dialysis treatment, that can be over $70,000 per year for life.  Employers have a huge incentive to keep employees healthy.  

So how does Corporate Health Partners help?  

There are two pieces to what we do--the assessment piece and the intervention piece. Employees and employers both need to know where they stand today and the knowledge that 75% of their current health plan cost is driven by lifestyle choices which are entirely preventable. In addition to helping the individual participants, a big piece of what we do is weave wellness into the culture of the organization. We are products of our environment and we must have a supportive culture to make lasting change. Some examples are making sure only healthy options are brought in for catered lunches and encourage employees to use some of their time during breaks or lunch for walking, exercise or stress relief.  

Corporate Health Partners offers wellness program solutions to improve the quality of life for employees and reduce the overall healthcare costs for a company. The ROOTS program provides comprehensive program management and health coaching at the worksite. We also tailor à la carte program options or provide initial, strategic wellness planning at an affordable fee to lay groundwork for wellness initiatives. And our ExecuTrack program meets the unique health needs of executive staff. Everything we do makes companies measurably healthier one employee at a time.

Not all wellness programs are effective, but there’s no doubt that the right wellness strategy will reduce healthcare costs when done correctly. Many thanks to Jeremy Curtis for taking time to tell us more about Corporate Health Partners. 

What is your experience with wellness programs? Does your company have one?

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like What is the biggest win of a wellness program?

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