Wellness Plans 101

The term "wellness plan" has been used regularly in the medium-to-large group arena for a few years, but what are they and do they work? The concept of wellness started a number of years ago when companies determined that one way to reduce the cost of their increasing premiums was to hire and retain healthy employees. How to target unhealthy employees and their behaviors has led to a multimillion dollar concept – wellness in the workplace.

What are wellness plans for?

Technically, a wellness plan is enacted to reduce claims costs. The idea is that if you have healthy employees, you have fewer claims, decreased absenteeism, decreased workers' compensation costs and less employee turnover. Ultimately, you want to change bad behaviors like smoking and encourage good behaviors like exercise.

How do you start a wellness plan?

There are several factors that go into a solid plan. Most companies start with a health risk assessment. This is usually a questionnaire and results in giving you the problem that needs to be fixed. Smoking cessation programs need to be provided, exercise encouraged and healthy food placed in the vending machines. The answers to the assessment will give you a goal to work towards – just make sure the goal is realistic. Companies can go a step further with biometric analysis. These tests measure body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, weight and cholesterol. Larger companies host health fairs, while some collect confidential data and use it to determine how their employees are doing on an annual basis. This data is also a good marker for the success of the plan.

How do you get employees to participate?

Incentives like cash, extra time off, gift cards and reduced health insurance premiums all motivate employees to change their habits.

Do wellness plans really work?

If you educate employees and create support from the top down, the return on the investment in a wellness plan can be good. Of course, measuring your results can come in several forms: reduced absenteeism, reduced health care claims, reduced employee turnover and improved productivity and morale.

How does the independent agent fit in?

As your agency expands and provides solutions to your clients, wellness plans will certainly be a topic for discussion. Several health carriers offer a wellness program and some are free. Also, having a wellness plan for your own agency employees is a good way to provide some credible data on how well they work. Additional resources: