3 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2010


Kimberly K. Horn has served as the president and CEO of Priority Health since 1997. A nonprofit health plan with 580,000 members and six offices across Michigan, Priority Health is recognized by U.S. News & World Report and the National Committee on Quality Assurance as one of America’s Best Healtht Plans.

Q. How can a wellness program improve insurance costs?

Research shows for every $1 invested in worksite wellness, there’s a return of more than $5 in avoided medical costs and absenteeism. Health care costs increase depending on the number of risk factors you have. Risk factors include tobacco use, weight, sedentary lifestyle, stress, depression and family history. A low-risk employee will cost $1,700 per member per year compared to $2,400 per member for employees with three to four risk factors. Weight also affects health care costs. Obese employees cost 71 percent more in health care costs than those employees with a healthy weight, even if they have the same health condition. Obese employees have a 27 percent greater overall health care cost even if they do not have a diagnosed health issue.

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

Wellness programs can be developed to fit the employer’s budget, from as low as $50 per employee for biometric screening and coaching to $200 per employee to provide personal coaching to employees with higher health risks. There are costs involved, but the outcomes outweigh the costs.

Q. What sort of return on investment or benefits can a small or medium business expect to see?

If we’re going to be successful in affecting overall rising health care costs and health outcomes, we need to focus on the root cause of disease — our unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Wellness is a key prevention strategy designed to impact the health and cost equation. The benefits to a company are seen over time and increase with how assertive your program is. The more requirements you have, the more engagement you get and the more incentives you offer, the more your low-risk numbers will increase. You’ll also have healthier and happier employees.