|Highmark Study Shows ROI For Employee Wellness Program
Employers can save $1.65 in healthcare expenses for
every dollar spent on a comprehensive employee wellness program,
according to a study by Highmark Inc.
Highmark conducted the study of its own corporate
wellness program, which saved $1.3 million during a four-year period,
the health insurer said.
Researchers used an analytical approach that examined
the healthcare costs reflected in the medical claims of employees who
participated in wellness programs, as well as nonparticipants with
comparable health risks.
"This study used a rigorous methodology to examine the
long-term impact of Highmark’s health promotion program on
healthcare expenditures," said Ron Goetzel, director of the Institute
for Health and Productivity Studies for the Rollins School of Public
Health at Emory University, a vice president at Thomson Healthcare and
a contributing researcher to the study. "Participants and
nonparticipants in the program were carefully matched to one another to
minimize the effect of selection bias, a common threat to the validity
of worksite health promotion studies involving workers in real-world
Reduced inpatient costs yielded the highest return on
investment, partially due to increased use of screenings and
medications among employees.
"There is a common misconception that these studies
represent people who are already healthy and motivated. It’s
simply not the case," said Brian Day, director of advanced analytics at
Highmark. "One of the most significant findings showed that those
involved in wellness activities were not healthier at the start of the
As employers begin to recognize the crucial role they
can play in improving the health and well-being of their workers, they
are looking for evidence that programs will benefit their employees and
their healthcare expenses.
Highmark conducted this study to provide the
scientifically sound evaluation employers are seeking and encourage the
adoption of worksite wellness programs similar to its own.
"This study is impactful because we illustrate the real
savings of a comprehensive wellness program and show that it not only
helps to improve the health of employees, but also slows the rate of
healthcare cost increases while generating a positive return on an
employer’s investment in the program," Day added.
At Highmark, employee wellness is a primary component of
the company’s culture. Employees are encouraged to participate in
a variety of wellness and condition management programs and regularly
attend onsite fitness center facilities. Highmark also promotes
employee participation in Lifestyle Returns, a program that provides
incentives for members to engage in healthier living and receive
Having seen successful results for its own employee
population, Highmark will now look to partner with businesses that
provide Highmark healthcare coverage and wellness programs to implement
The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Address: Highmark Inc., 120 Fifth Ave. Pl., Pittsburgh, PA 15222; (412) 544-7000, www.highmark.com.