At the Greater Wichita YMCA, corporate wellness director Lianna Bodlak works with a group of company employees as part of an innovative diabetes prevention program. Some participants are there because of elevated blood glucose levels discovered through a recent company health screening. Others had normal readings, but showed other risk factors, like obesity, a family history of diabetes, high-blood pressure or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
"The idea is to keep them from transitioning into diabetes," Bodlak says.
Companies Benefit From Wellness Programs
Vermillion and other Wichita companies are taking advantage of area wellness programs like these to keep their workforce healthy. Encouraging healthy habits among employees is also good for their bottom lines, ensuring better productivity, fewer missed work days and decreased staff health insurance costs.
"There is a marked level of interest among employers as they increasingly look for ways to reduce health-care costs," says Ron Whiting, executive director of the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care. "More than ever, they are finding ways to engage employees and offer incentives for healthy behaviors."
That may mean offering reduced health insurance premiums or bonuses to employees who participate in fitness programs, or awarding gift cards to those who set and meet certain health goals.
"Employee engagement is critical to the success of any program or initiative an employer provides, " says Jalaa Miller, worksite wellness and health educator with the Sedgwick County Health Department.
Miller works with the business community, offering free technical assistance and resources for worksites that are starting programs to promote health and fitness among employees.
"Programs and policies implemented should appeal to employees and encourage them to start making healthier lifestyle choices," she says.
At some companies, one of the perks of participation is money added to an employee's health savings account, or HSA. Many Wichita businesses take advantage of HSA programs, which allow employees to save money on out-of-pocket medical expenses. Right now, families can put up to $6,150 per year into these accounts, before taxes.
With these incentives in place, companies can offer employee health insurance programs with lower premiums and higher deductibles. Employees can then pay deductibles and any hefty co-pays with funds from the HSA, while monthly premiums are greatly reduced.
More Cost-Saving Efforts
Another collective effort to reduce area health-care costs is the Kansas Health Information Network, a statewide patient health information exchange, which went live in summer 2012. A range of Wichita health-care providers participate. The goal for KHIN and the Wichita Health Information Exchange – one of three partners in the network – is to offer a secure electronic network where providers can easily share patient information. Not only will this virtual network lead to better care for patients, but it will also reduce duplication of expensive testing.
Participation is expected to save money for employees by streamlining their medical treatment and cut costs for employers by giving them the data they need to better evaluate health plan usage. It's just one of the many ways area businesses are embracing workplace wellness.