By John Kahle, Intercare Insurance Solutions

Smart investments pay huge dividends. Investing in corporate wellness programs paid off for 20 local businesses that are being recognized as winners in “San Diego’s Healthiest Companies 2012 Awards”. All 20 companies would agree there is an even bigger payout – a healthier workforce.

About the Award

On May 16, 2012, the San Diego Business Journal and Intercare Insurance Solutions hosted the third annual San Diego’s Healthiest Companies Awards. The awards honored local companies that are investing in and committed to creating a healthier workplace.

There were nearly 60 nominees in four categories – small, medium and large

San Diego-based companies and companies with local employees, but headquartered outside San Diego.

About the Nominees

Nominees represented San Diego’s diverse business community with companies from a variety of sectors including biotechnology, financial services, high technology and hospitality. In all, 18 different industries were represented.

Sixty-eight percent of the nominees have fewer than 600 employees. The largest number of nominees (37 percent) fell into the small company category, defined as fewer than 100 employees.

As in past years, nominees completed a rigorous online nomination that included questions about each company’s leadership, wellness investments, data collection, wellness communications, health and wellness programs and ROI.

The rigorous application process and comprehensive responses to San Diego’s Healthiest Companies is a tribute to all of the nominees’ commitment to creating a culture of health in their organizations.

Employers Value Investment

There is a change in the way employers think about health care. Once viewed merely as a line item on the balance sheet, savvy employers now view health care as an investment in the future of their business.

And the trend is growing. According to Intercare’s soon-to-be-released 2012 San Diego Benefit Survey, 34 percent of responding companies currently offer some type of wellness program and 29 percent plan to implement a wellness program in the next 12 months; nearly doubling the number of local companies actively engaging in wellness.

But wellness programs don’t just happen; implementing wellness requires an upfront investment of people, time and money. Most of San Diego’s Healthiest Companies nominees (73 percent) established a wellness budget and 99 percent retained or increased that budget over the last year with an average increase of 108 percent. On average, six individuals per company invest time as one of the staff members responsible for wellness initiatives.

The Value on Investment (VOI) is a new type of measurement which illustrates a shift in focus for benefit and wellness initiatives. Employers now assess the value of a health or wellness benefit versus just the traditional cost analysis presented by insurers.

For example, will increasing a copayment from $20 to $30 truly add value?

Or would decreasing the copayment to $10 incent better compliance with preventive treatment; thereby avoiding the more costly expenses related to a heart attack or stroke?

This new value on investment measurement promotes the right kind of health care utilization and maximizes the employer’s considerable investment in health care.

Protecting the Investment

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that average premiums for family coverage have increased 113 percent since 2001. Employers’ contributions to those premium costs average 72 percent.

Besides the direct costs of health care, there are indirect costs associated including loss of productivity due to absences, disability and health-related decreases in performance.

The Integrated Benefits Institute estimates lost productivity is an astounding 51 percent of the total cost of health care. Clearly, there is value in a healthier workforce.

Non-compliance is the single most influential factor in the high cost of health care. Employees who skip preventive screenings, do not take their prescribed medications or do not follow their physician’s treatment plan have a significant impact on health care costs.

Estimates put the annual cost of non-compliance at a staggering $300 billion in avoidable health care costs. Companies can no longer accept a system that rewards unhealthy behavior and must find ways to engage their employees in living healthier lives and being compliant with prescribed health care regimens.

Think about it. Individuals who miss mortgage payments suffer lower FICO scores. Speeders receive traffic fines and pay higher car insurance premiums. But, employees who ignore prescribed treatment and embrace unhealthy lifestyles continue to receive the benefit of their health care coverage with no penalties. With the employer covering 70 to 75 percent of the cost, that’s bad business strategy. Something needs to change.

Using health as a business strategy optimizes health care expenditures through high-value health benefits designed to encourage healthier behavior. Healthier behaviors translate to improved health which saves money and allows companies to invest those savings in other areas of the business, which may result in a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Look at any other type of investment – stocks, real estate or joint ventures – and an ROI analysis is standard operating procedure. Why should it be any different for a company’s health care investment?

The award nominees’ leadership understand the importance of investing in health. 100 percent of the leaders participate in their company’s health and wellness initiatives, and most (76 percent) take an active role in their company’s wellness committee.

Building a culture of good health makes excellent business sense and San Diego’s Healthiest Companies winners recognize the value of employee engagement. While it is important to have the support and buy-in from the C-suite, it is equally important to involve middle management to form meaningful connections with all employees.

Effective managers have the pulse of the workplace and are instrumental in developing and executing communication plans for wellness initiatives to engage employees.

This year’s nominees embraced technology for communications with 92 percent using email, the company intranet (73 percent), and social media (60 percent). Others incorporated QR codes, software apps, YouTube videos and podcasts.

But the most popular form of communication (97 percent) remains face-to-face meetings. Most companies (94 percent) incorporate messages of employee health and wellness into their company meetings.

Building a culture of good health extends beyond the workplace and into the home and the community. That is why all of the nominees (100 percent) include employees’ families/households in wellness communications.

Nearly all of the nominees (97 percent) support individual and corporate citizenship through sponsored programs, such as the Susan G. Komen and the American Cancer Society walks/races, volunteer community work, and charitable contribution matching programs.

While many nominees achieved success through financial incentives, giveaways, social programs and friendly competitions; true sustainable success happens when employees view a culture

of good health as “just another day at

the office”.

Emerging Trend

San Diego Healthiest Companies embrace an emerging trend in wellness, known as “population health management”.

Population health management brings groups together to combine resources for improving health outcomes through three types of management scenarios: 1) segments within the company, 2) groupings by industry, 3) public and private collaboration.

Segments within the company bring employees with similar backgrounds and needs together. For example, most (65 percent) of one nominee’s employee population have a Doctor of Philosophy degree and their native homes are outside the U.S. By customizing health education, the company assists the employees in the transition into the U.S. health care system and gains a better understanding of the cultural needs of this segment of their population.

Groupings by industry enhance wellness initiatives and activities by pooling resources. For example, the hospitality industry typically has a multi-lingual workforce with limited access to computers. By joining forces throughout the industry, employers are able to combine communication resources and share ideas that meet the needs of their unique population.

Public and private collaboration is a national trend where San Diego has taken great strides. San Diego’s wellness initiative, Live Well, San Diego unites public, private and non-profit sectors in transforming the health of San Diegans. Their success caught the eye of Microsoft that is sponsoring a series of forums on effective public and private partnerships for achieving healthier communities.

In March 2012, Microsoft and San

Diego leaders co-hosted Live Well San Diego: Innovations in Public-Private Collaboration. The forum explored innovative solutions between business and health, programs for encouraging healthy, active children, and the use of employee wellness as a strategic driver for healthier companies.

San Diego’s Healthiest Companies value their investment in health and protect their investment with smart business strategy that builds a culture of good health in the workplace and the community.

We congratulate the 20 winners and all of the nominees for the 2012 San Diego Healthiest Companies. We wish you continued health and success. Please see page 42 for a complete list of winning companies.

John Kahle is Chief Wellness Officer for Intercare Insurance Solutions, a San Diego-based full service brokerage and consulting firm.

Submitted by Intercare Insurance Solutions