Wellness program links hospital, employers

KANSAS CITY, MO – As employers aim to hold down healthcare costs, many will increasingly look to wellness programs that can prove they deliver a return on investment.

That’s where St. Luke’s Health System comes in. The Kansas City, Mo.-based integrated delivery network offers a serious wellness program that includes an on-site health enhancement director.

The IDN has about 20 such directors, working with about 25 large employers in the metropolitan area. Employers with healthier employees as a result of active wellness programs get rate breaks on insurance premiums and other side benefits from having a healthier workforce.

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The initiative fits with the mission of St. Luke’s and provides a modest profit for the system, said John Mullin, director of health enhancement for St. Luke’s Hospital.

“We felt we needed a more integrated approach than just offering a class or a talk here or there,” Mullin said. “We wanted to help motivate people by creating a culture in the workplace, incentivizing them on how they spend their healthcare dollars.”

St. Luke’s developed the program with CBIZ Benefits and Insurance, and the approach is unique, said Jack Bastable, national practice leader for the company’s health and productivity management group. The model offers a full gamut of services, risk assessments and programming.

St. Luke’s first used the approach with its own 7,000 employees. In addition to providing incentives for employees to have health risk assessments, the on-site health enhancement coordinators keep wellness top-of-mind for employees.

“It’s important to have somebody whose main objective is to address the health and productivity within the workforce,” Mullin said.

Employees become more motivated to improve health behavior when they get incentives, such as reductions related to health insurance premiums, he said.

St. Luke’s program is now taking a fresh look at value-based benefits, the design of which is targeted at enhancing compliance of people who are at risk for serious or chronic illnesses. For example, diabetics who take part in a diabetes education program and achieve “markers” showing they’re complying with health objectives could qualify for free insulin and other supplies.

“The jury is still out on this, but we’re at a point where both employers and benefit consultants are reaching a point where we have to do something,” Mullin said.