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Solutions for reducing healthcare costs

Companies that want to encourage their workers to participate in wellness programs should consider reward and recognition programs.

Providing a generous health insurance program can help any organization attract highly qualified and motivated workers. However, rising healthcare costs mean this strategy is harder to implement. Most businesses struggle with balancing  expenses and maintaining worker satisfaction with their health benefits.

Wellness programs represent an effective way to reduce insurance costs by lowering the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, obesity and more. The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states that wellness programs can lower healthcare expenses by 18.4 percent for all working adults. Retirees who participate in wellness programs could see savings of up to 28 percent by staying healthier longer.  

Account-based plans give employees control over expenses
Companies that want to encourage their workers to participate in wellness programs should consider reward and recognition programs. These initiatives provide clear guidelines for employees and create additional motivation for participants. A survey by Aon Hewitt found that 58 percent of employers offer some form of incentive for completing major lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or losing weight. These employee incentive programs are often tied to account-based plans that allow workers to take more responsibility for managing their health expenses. The survey found that these programs also increased employee satisfaction.

"Account-based 'consumer' plans continue to rise in popularity with employers, in part, because they require workers to take a more active role in managing their use of the health care system," said Jim Winkler, health innovation leader at Aon Hewitt. "Armed with the right tools and resources, workers who enroll in these types of plans can clearly see what health services cost, and they can use this information to be better informed consumers when it comes to choosing the care they need and spending their healthcare dollars. In many cases, this enlightened perspective can lead to cost savings for both the employer and the consumer."

The account-based plans enable workers to get specific feedback about their personal healthcare costs. This allows them to be more educated and active about their health, reducing expenses for all parties. These factors are critical for the development of wellness programs. Failing to provide information about healthy lifestyles may prevent participation from employees. The survey noted that 86 percent of employees who received suggested steps to improve their health took action. These steps should be easy and convenient to maximize participation, but publicly acknowledging successes can also boost enthusiasm for following healthy lifestyles.

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