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Well, well, well

Want to know one way to control health care costs? Stay well. As in use your wellness programs.

Want to know one way to control health care costs?

Stay well. As in use your wellness programs.

According to a September 2012 issue brief from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence titled “The Business Case for Wellness Programs in Public Employee Health Plans,” an examination of state and local public-sector wellness programs indicates that those programs can reduce annual claims by employees, as well as improve their health.

Ditto for retirees. In an introduction to the brief, the group’s CEO Elizabeth Kellar cites a study of the California Public Employees Retirement System that “found that retirees who participated in a health education program reduced health risk, used fewer medical services and had lower claims costs than did the control group”; savings on annual claims costs were estimated at $3.2 million to $8 million.

Wellness programs, even though their benefit emerges over the longer term rather than the short term, are looking to be an attractive cost-control option compared to other measures like higher deductibles, higher co-pays and premium hikes.

This hasn’t escaped the attention of the Office of Personnel Management, either. Earlier this year, in his annual letter to the private-sector insurance carriers who bid for the $43 billion business of providing Federal Employee Health Benefits Program coverage to more than 8 million feds, OPM Healthcare and Insurance Director John O’Brian said that “the health and wellness of FEHB Program members continues to be one of our most important priorities.”

In the March 29 letter, O’Brian focused on obesity reduction incentives and plans, and called for enhancements to prenatal and neonatal health care programs.

“We expect you to offer programs that promote health and wellness and which are aimed at improving employee productivity, enhancing healthy lifestyles, and lowering long-term health care costs,” the letter stated.

“This includes incentives for enrollees who complete health risk assessments, who adhere to disease management programs or who participate in wellness activities or treatment plans aimed at managing and improving health status.”

Of course, employees actually have to use wellness programs if they are going to lower—or at least moderate—health care costs over the long term.

So get with it. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

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