Seven Reasons to Design a Wellness Program Centered on Caring, Not Cost

December 21, 2015
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller
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The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 70% of U.S. employers now offer wellness programs, up from 58% in 2008, when they first began surveying companies about their wellness benefits.

Most of those companies are motivated by short-term thinking: reducing healthcare costs for their companies. Unfortunately, most of those companies aren’t seeing much success from their programs.

At Barry-Wehmiller, our primary motivator is caring.

We challenge ourselves to look at our wellbeing programs through a lens of care, not cost. Our commitment to being a people-centric organization calls us to make benefits decisions with our team members’ health and wellbeing as the priority. And that means offering more than programs to improve the bottom line. It means devoting significant resources to designing wellness programs and activities that educate, inspire and motivate our team members to take personal responsibility to be better stewards of their own health–for the long-term. As an organization, our goal is to help them become their best selves and we realize that is only possible when they feel safe, healthy and fulfilled.

After the first year of intense focus on inspiring our team members to embrace healthier lifestyles, we were thrilled to see positive outcomes like these:

  • 30% increase in doctor visits, mostly for preventive screenings;
  • 77% increase in biometric screenings;
  • 450% increase in use of the company-subsidized healthcare concierge service which helped team members locate high-quality, cost-efficient healthcare providers;
  • Hundreds of dollars in average savings to team members who used the concierge service for prescription drug reviews, procedure comparisons, physician recommendations and more;
  • 34% reduction in the cost of outpatient surgeries;
  • Almost 30% of our medical plan enrollees earning the Better You Incentive, making them eligible for reduced monthly premiums during 2016 for completing a pathway of required healthy activities.

We never imagined we would see such widespread adoption of the program, let alone significant success after a single year! And while we know the truest measure of our program’s success won’t be seen for several years when the healthier choices made today should result in fewer health problems for our team members down the road, we are quite proud of the results. In fact, we have been so encouraged that instead of increasing employee medical premiums from the mid to high single digits like most US companies, we are keeping our rates for 2016 the same as 2015.

The biggest benefit, however, is not quantifiable. Just ask Dale Young, one of our long-term team members who, after more than 20 years with BW companies in Wisconsin, recently moved to Clearwater, FL to take on a role with our PneumaticScaleAngelus operations.

After he relocated, Dale was very busy and would have preferred to put off finding a new doctor for a few more months. But the deadline to fulfill the requirements for the Better You Incentive was fast approaching and he still needed to get the required annual physical.

“You know how it is. It takes a lot of effort to do the research to find a new doctor and I just didn’t have the time. So I contacted the service Barry-Wehmiller offers us to help navigate healthcare decisions and they found me a doctor and booked the appointment,” said Dale.

During the checkup the doctor discovered a small odd-colored freckle on Dale’s back. He removed the freckle and skin around it and ordered a biopsy. Dale wasn’t overly concerned. “I had lived in Wisconsin my entire life where my back rarely saw the light of day. I just figured that doctors in Florida where people are constantly out in the sun were very cautious about anything that looked a little odd.”

When Dale returned a week later for the follow up appointment, his doctor said “Well, I just saved your life. That spot was less than two weeks away from becoming a full blown melanoma and would have killed you.”

Dale remembers how he started to shake as the gravity of what may have been began to sink in. If not for Barry-Wehmiller’s wellness program, he’d likely be facing a death sentence.

“If I hadn’t been required to get my checkup by the deadline to earn the Better You Incentive, I know I would have waited until things settled down after moving to get it taken care of. By then it would have been too late. And if I hadn’t had access to the service that helped me find the doctor, I doubt I would have found one on my own that quickly. Again it would have been too late to catch the melanoma before it turned deadly.

“My doctor said he saved my life, but I give equal credit to the wellbeing initiatives that motivated me to make my health a priority.”

Dale isn’t the only person who feels that way. Six other BW team members across North America came forward to tell us that, because we created a program that encouraged them to be better stewards of their health, they were motivated to get checkups that uncovered potentially life-threatening issues.

As far as I’m concerned, saving the lives of those seven team members is the only metric that matters!

However, due to our medical plan enrollees’ dedication to smarter, healthier decisions this year, we experienced lower overall claims costs and, ultimately, insurance costs for the organization. So, just as we share the cost of healthcare, we felt the right thing to do was share the benefit of the savings. We decided the fair thing to do was give those team members enrolled in a company medical plan a break from paying their medical insurance premiums during the month of December. We knew they would appreciate the extra money during the holiday season.

Dale said the company passing the savings on to team members was a nice gesture. “It shows that Barry-Wehmiller’s motivation is not cost savings for the company. It’s for us to be healthier—for ourselves and our families.” To him, however, the extra money in his paycheck is a drop in the bucket compared to the windfall he received in September. “When that checkup saved my life, I felt like I won the lottery.”

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