3 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2010


Annette Ruby is the vice president of health services management for SummaCare Inc., which is one of the few provider-owned health insurance companies in the region. SummaCare has more than 6,000 health care physicians and 50 hospitals in its regional network.

Q. How can an insurance company help a business develop a wellness program?

Insurance companies and employers have a great opportunity to work together to develop a wellness strategy. On the insurance side, we do this by understanding how employees utilize health care — what they access, what they don’t access, understanding the illness burden of a group, what percent of their population is healthy, what percent of their population is at risk, who’s moving into a higher cost plateau because they’ve developed a chronic disease — and then working with an employer to understand the kind of problems that are driving their health care costs and understanding their overall risk.

Q. What resources can an insurance company provide during and after the process of implementing a wellness program?

The way we work with our employers is that prior to implementing a wellness strategy, we really try to understand what their overall health benefits goals are. That’s important because employers really differ in the kinds of health care insurance products they offer their employees and understanding what kind of budget they have. We work with some very small employers who might be struggling but are committed to providing an insurance offering for their employees and are looking for a low-cost option in an attempt to provide a more stable premium.

Q. How much money, time and effort should a business invest in a wellness program?

Some recent studies have shown that if an employer is spending between $100 and $150 per employee per year, you can develop a comprehensive health promotion initiative and expect results. All of those other factors that influence your results are still present, but that level of spending would suggest that if you have a good program, you can expect good results. Any business strategy requires vision, and that time and effort can be reduced by working effectively with your insurance company.