PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Companies increasingly seek to curb health care costs through an employee wellness program, but experts say it's not always clear whether the programs work or save money.
To find out, Regence Finance and Human Resource departments partnered for a hard look at the health plan's award-winning employee wellness program. In contrast to most published studies, Regence sought a comprehensive accounting of all direct program costs to calculate the return on investment (ROI). Many wellness ROI studies skip this step. Even with rigorous accounting for direct program costs, Regence identified medical savings and improved productivity, as well as a positive ROI.
Over a five-year period from 2005 – 2009, Regence identified an ROI of $1.78 for every dollar spent on the program. Savings correlated to employee participation were as follows:
- Lower medical costs than nonparticipants, saving $3.47 million
- Fewer unplanned absence hours than nonparticipants, saving $2.9 million
- Lower disability claims than nonparticipants, saving $2.83 million
"The strong partnership we developed between Human Resources and Finance is unique," said Regence HR Director Denise Johnson. "We believe this contributes to our research being one of the most credible ROI studies out there."
As is common with such studies, productivity savings were identified by comparing results for participants versus nonparticipants. However, the medical savings were identified through a more stringent measure of comparing them with a risk-matched sample (similar age, health risk factors and occupation) of non-Regence employees.
Regence's broad-based wellness program focuses on rewards for changing behavior, such as 35 percent discounts on healthier fare in on-site cafeterias; company-wide pedometer and other activity challenges, whose points can be redeemed for gift cards; and classes on health-affecting issues such as stress and financial security. Eighty-three percent of Regence employees participate in at least one of the many components of the wellness program.
"It's great to see these savings," said Johnson, "but we also do this because we believe it's the right thing. Employees spend a third or more of their day at work. Creating a vibrant wellness culture at Regence makes us better able to support our members and build healthier communities for everyone."
Regence is a leading health insurer in the Northwest / Mountain State Region, offering health, life and dental insurance. We serve nearly 2.5 million members as Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, Regence BlueShield (selected counties in Washington), Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah and Regence BlueShield of Idaho. Each plan is a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Regence is committed to improving the health of our members and our communities, and to transforming our health care system. For more information, please visit Regence.com.