Blue Cross Blue Shield Companies report Wellness Programs have Financial, Health Benefits
(BestWire Services Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)
An increasing number of employers are participating in employee health and wellness programs in a bid to reduce health care costs due to chronic illnesses, officials from Blue Cross Blue Shield companies and the National Business Group on Health announced. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of America also released a new report finding that workplace education efforts can increase worker participation in wellness programs by 21% or more.
Joined by participating companies, the insurers were in the nation’s capital to lobby Congress on the benefits of wellness programs.
With chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and smoking accounting for approximately 75% of health care costs, employers have a strong incentive to utilize workplace wellness programs, panelists said at the National Press Club. Blues’ representatives did not provide national statistics on how many companies and employees have joined such plans.
Dr. Douglas Woll, senior vice president and chief medical officer for the Blue Cross Network of Michigan, said the nonprofit insurer gave participating member companies an up-front 10% discount on health insurance premiums in exchange for enacting health and wellness programs. In less than two years, 575 employers with 75,000 employees have signed up, a figure that is growing by about 1,000 employees monthly.
Insurers began offering wellness, disease management programs and pharmacy benefit management services over the past decade because they learned that employers were willing to pay for them, according to Edward Kaplan, national health practice leader with the Segal Co., a New York-based employee benefits consulting firm. These programs also are helping insurers boost revenue in an environment where they?re struggling to grow membership, he said (BestWire, June 16, 2008).
While anecdotal and qualitative findings show increased participation by employers and employees, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Don Bradley said insurers have to show hard numbers verifying cost savings from wellness programs.
Otherwise, he said, “I’ll be polishing up my resume.”