Wellness incentives – a lesson from workers compensation
As consultants and advocates for our clients, we want our clients to have a broader set of pro-active tools to reduce the cost of health insurance. One of those tools that still is mostly untapped is employer-sponsored Wellness initiatives at the worksite. Wellness is hardly a new concept. Many researchers have reported on the success of Wellness programs but they have been sparsely implemented. One of the biggest problems with Wellness programs is that only some of the gains in health care expense control are achieved in the near term. Many of the gains are not achieved until later in life as a result of decreases in the incidence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. And given that the average employee changes jobs every seven years or so, many employers feel that the benefits are passed on to future employers. hat poses a problem. How do you incent businesses to pay for Wellness programs when they may not get many of the benefits?
One answer is that since society certainly benefits as a whole from Wellness initiatives, that government might use its power of regulation in order to incent businesses to implement Wellness programs. This is hardly without precedent in Massachusetts. In 1990, as part of a Workers Compensation Reform project, the state instituted a program called the Qualified Loss Management Program. This program provided direct premium credits on Workers Compensation Insurance policies in return for the implementation of Safety and Return To Work programs that had been certified by the state and were administered by private consulting firms whose programs had also been certified by the state.
A state-mandated credit for the implementation of state-certified Wellness programs applicable to all group Health Insurance coverage might be the bridge to providing incentives to all employers. If all or most employers instituted Wellness programs then the transitory nature of the benefits might equalize out over the state population.