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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: June 24, 2008
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 settings."

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 program."

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 preventive care.

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 similar evaluations.

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.


  This article was taken from:
The Executive Report on Managed Care

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