April 2010

There are many different methods to reward healthy behavior change.  One method gaining in popularity is linking incentives to benefit programs.   David Hunnicutt, President of Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) states “Perhaps the best approach in increasing wellness participation levels is formally linking your benefit program to your wellness plan design.”

There is sometimes hesitation on the part of organizations to take that route as they are concerned with employee reaction.  The times are a changing. According to the Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive Poll, 53% of U.S. adults think it is fair to ask those with unhealthy lifestyles to pay more for their health insurance (up from 37% only three years ago).  According to a  Washington Post article, 56% of employers plan to hold employees more responsible for the cost of health benefits.

There are important HIPAA factors to keep in mind when designing benefit based incentives. HIPAA stipulates: If an incentive is contingent upon the satisfaction of a health standard, the following guidelines must be observed.

  1. It must be re-assessed at least once per year.
  2. It must be designed to promote health and wellness.
  3. It may not exceed 20% of the total cost of coverage offered (raised to 30% effective Jan. 2014)
  4. It must be available to all “similarly situated individuals”, appeals and “responsible alternatives” must be offered.
  5. The availability of the appeal must be disclosed in all plan materials.

Other factors to consider:

  • How will the incentives be awarded and administered, what technology is needed?
  • Will it be a reduced payroll contribution, a better health plan, a deductible credit, or a Health Savings Account deposit?
  • How will appeals be handled?
  • Will supporting programs be offered to help employees reach the incentive goals?

While this approach may seem daunting the rewards can be significant.

In one case study involving a manufacturing company with a little less than 2,000 employees,  one year savings were over $200,000.  This was done by choosing four areas – blood pressure,  body mass index, cholesterol and tobacco use.  If an employee fell within the acceptable parameter for each item the employee contribution to their medical plan was less; if they did not meet the criteria, they paid more. All four areas improved for that employee population.

Valorie Bender

Do you find, as I do, that every once in a while you are feeling stressed. There may be any number of things that trigger these feelings. You always know when it hits you. When that happens to me, I look for ways to stop for a moment to take a deep breath or do take a short break and do something that will relax me.

Want to practice? Just click on the video image below, then sit back and relax.

Prepare to have your breath taken away! For over two years filmmaker Brian Luke Seaward traveled to many of the world’s most pristine locations—Greenland, Patagonia, Hawaii, Iceland, Peru, Alaska, The Caribbean, New Zealand, and the Canadian Rockies—capturing the earth’s beauty in ways that are rarely seen. Inspired by decades of National Geographic specials, the BBC Planet Earth series and the majestic beauty of our terrestrial home, Earth Songs gently guides the viewer on a journey of ageless wisdom, inspiring poetry and stunning footage of Mother Earth at her finest. Enjoy, relax and cure your nature deficit disorder and provide an immediate stress relief.

To learn more about this video or to purchase a copy, visit Brian Luke Seaward’s website: http://www.brianlukeseaward.net/earthsongs.html

Mari Ryan