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June 11, 2008 > Wellness Program Helps Employers Lighten the Burden of Health Care Costs

Wellness Program Helps Employers Lighten the Burden of Health Care Costs

One of the top issues for American companies today is the spiraling cost of health insurance. And it's no wonder. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows employer health insurance premiums grew a cumulative 78 percent between 2001 and 2007, "far outpacing cumulative wage growth of 19 percent over the same period."
This problem has had a significant impact on operating costs for businesses. For example, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that U.S. manufacturers who provide health insurance to their employees are now paying an average of $2.38 per hour per worker for health care alone. It's not surprising that companies everywhere are looking for more ways to stem the tide of rising health care costs.
One successful strategy has been to offer wellness and disease prevention services for employees. Such health management programs help employees to be healthier, which should lead to lower insurance costs over the long term. Wellness and prevention services also contribute to lower employee absenteeism and higher productivity - factors that have an even greater impact on the bottom line than mere cost containment.
Today, 80 percent of large employers use some form of health management program to control costs and improve productivity, according to the Mercer National Survey of Employer-sponsored Health Plans. With a little creative thinking and planning, even smaller employers can benefit from wellness and prevention programs for their workers.
Like employers across the U.S., companies in the Tri-City area are also feeling the pressure of rising health care costs. Some have turned to Washington Hospital's Well For Work occupational health services program for assistance.
"At Well For Work, we partner with employers in the community to help take care of their employees. We offer a full range of services from pre-employment screenings to post-injury treatment to overall corporate wellness," explains Mike Rogers, manager of off-site services for Washington Hospital Healthcare System. "Our comprehensive wellness program enables employers to provide accessible, preventive services that help keep their employees healthy and at work."
Well For Work is a comprehensive program for businesses of all types and sizes. In addition to those mentioned, the program's services include pre-employment physicals by trained physicians to evaluate a potential employee's ability to do a job; annual employee exams; executive physical physicals; return-to-work, fitness-for-duty, DMV and Department of Transportation exams; and drug and alcohol testing.
The program has four locations in Fremont, Newark and the Warm Springs area. Because Well For Work is part of the Washington Hospital Healthcare System, employers have access to the system's broad range of advanced treatment and rehabilitation services, when they are needed.
Businesses that partner with Well For Work also get the benefit of quality screening and wellness services provided at their site through the Washington On Wheels (W.O.W.) Mobile Health Clinic. Staffed by a nurse practitioner under the direction of Washington Hospital physician Steven Curran, M.D., this 36-foot mobile unit makes it easy for employees to access services that help detect disease early and improve overall health.
"When we work with a company, we develop a true wellness program, not just a health fair," says Rogers. "Our nurse practitioner does assessments and sets goals for employees. She also advises on action plans to achieve employees' health goals. Then, she comes back at a later date to do a progress check."
With chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease on the rise, screenings, early intervention and healthier lifestyle choices can make a marked difference to the long-term cost of providing health care. By working to treat chronic disease at an earlier stage, or even preventing the disease in the first place, Well For Work and its partner companies are taking a proactive approach to fighting back against the rising tide of health care costs.
For more information about Washington Hospital's Well For Work program, call (510) 608-1320.

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