PITTSBURGH, Feb. 11 Study findings published today in theJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) show that employerscan save $1.65 in health care expenses for every dollar spent on acomprehensive employee wellness program. Pittsburgh-based health insurerHighmark Inc. conducted a study of its own corporate wellness program, whichsaved $1.3 million during a four-year period.
Researchers used an analytical approach that examined the health carecosts reflected in the medical claims of employees who participated inwellness programs, as well as nonparticipants with comparable health risks.
"This study used a rigorous methodology to examine the long-term impact ofHighmark's health promotion program on health care expenditures," said RonGoetzel, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studiesfor the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, a vice presidentat Thomson Healthcare and a contributing researcher to the study."Participants and nonparticipants in the program were carefully matched to oneanother to minimize the effect of selection bias, a common threat to thevalidity of worksite health promotion studies involving workers in real-worldsettings."
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 whoare already healthy and motivated. It's simply not the case," said Brian Day,Ed.D., director of advanced analytics at Highmark. "One of the mostsignificant findings showed that those involved in wellness activities werenot healthier at the start of the program."
As employers begin to recognize the crucial role they can play inimproving the health and well-being of their workers, they are looking forevidence that programs will benefit their employees and their health careexpenses. Highmark conducted this study to provide the scientifically soundevaluation employers are seeking and encourage the adoption of worksitewellness programs similar to its own.
"This study is impactful because we illustrate the real savings of acomprehensive wellness program and show that it not only helps to improve thehealth of employees, but also slows the rate of health care cost increaseswhile generating a positive return on an employer's investment in theprogram," Day added.
At Highmark, employee wellness is a primary component of the company'sculture. Employees are encouraged to participate in a variety of wellness andcondition management programs and regularly attend onsite fitness centerfacilities. Highmark also promotes employee participation in LifestyleReturns, a program that provides incentives for members to engage in healthierliving and receive preventive care.
Having seen successful results for its own employee population, Highmarkwill now look to partner with businesses that provide Highmark health carecoverage and wellness programs to implement similar evaluations.
The study and its complete results can be found in the February 2008edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
About Highmark Inc.
As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'smission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enablingindividuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmarkserves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business.Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health careprograms affordable and to support community-based programs that work toimprove people's health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impactthroughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impactexceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its membersa greater hand