News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 12, 2012

WORKPLACE WELLNESS

Keeping employees, family members healthy, productive results in reduced healthcare costs

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE —

Workplace health and wellness are what’s trending in the employer world right now.

Employers are aware that keeping employees and their family members healthy and productive will reduce healthcare costs. But figuring out how to do that can be tricky.

That is where Jennifer Moore tries to help.

Moore is a certified wellness program manager, and an employee benefits consultant for Sycamore Insurance Associates. She consults with local businesses to set up wellness plans for employers, and shows employees some simple actions to save money when it comes to buying medicines or seeking medical testing or procedures.

“My biggest satisfaction is helping an employee or an employee spouse figure out how to mitigate expenses,” Moore said. An easy example is looking at generic medicine lists to see what prescriptions can be purchased cheaper at different retailers. Some pharmacies have different prices for the same prescriptions, she said, so comparing the costs can turn up savings for employees.

Also, sometimes a free-standing facility will be less expensive than going to a hospital for testing.

“Education is the biggest thing, and that’s what I enjoy doing,” she said.

Many insurance providers these days have websites that can educate employees on how their benefits work. They may also have online tools to show costs of surgeries, statistics on outcomes and how to rank medical needs.

And many insurance companies also encourage their clients to implement wellness plans for their employees, since a healthier workforce contributes to lower healthcare costs.

“I tell my clients and prospects that if you’re not on the wellness bus, you should be,” Moore said.

Programs can be simple — such as just offering health screenings once a year. A second-year strategy would be to offer discounts to employees who show an improvement in their screenings from the prior year. And a third-year strategy might be financial incentives on premiums.

Savings can benefit small companies with less than 50 employees as well as large companies, she said. The key is to have employer buy-in from the top down. That may mean that employees might be given time from their job to go to a workout center a few times a week. Or it may be simply hosting a flu shot clinic for employees.

For one local employer, Moore said, a health screen revealed that a female employee had a high blood sugar number and was in need of immediate medical care. She was sent to a local hospital for treatment which likely saved her from having complications. The woman did not even know she had diabetes.

If an employer requests it, Moore said, the results of health screenings can be used to tailor seminars to educate employees on whatever group medical issues are identified, such as diabetes or smoking cessation or weight loss.

Getting employers to engage their employees in healthier choices and lifestyles is a focus for the Better Health Wabash Valley program that is promoted by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

“It is truly important for the business community to work on this, and to help employers have a healthier workforce,” said Chamber executive director Ken Bringle.

The community health initiative actively seeks to link healthcare providers and the business community to educate the workforce on how to stay healthy and productive.



Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.