San Diego Business Journal

Wellness Programs Shape Bodies, Attitudes and Teams

HEALTH: Firms Control Insurance Costs and Create Camaraderie With Plans By Julie Gallant Monday, October 8, 2012

For 2013, the company’s wellness programs will focus on five behaviors: managing stress, improving physical activity, quitting smoking or tobacco use, improving diet, and preventing illness. Now in its third year of health and wellness program participation, Life Technologies wellness program manager Erica Ullman said the staff has significantly improved its health status and improved upon health risks while reducing average blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

“We put responsibility on the employees to be good health care consumers and we provide a lot of incentive for engagement and participation and are now focusing on outcomes the employees have shown to prove their health is in good status,” Ullman said.

Ullman said payoffs have been demonstrated by employees, who number 1,500 locally and 10,000 worldwide, getting preventive care more often. They’re heading off risks for certain chronic medical conditions, and they’re seeking urgent care services, instead of emergency room visits, which result in lower overall medical costs. She said that the company has not had to increase insurance premiums for its employees for the three consecutive years.

At Encore Capital Group, a financial services and debt collection company with 3,000 employees globally including nearly 400 at its Mission Valley headquarters, the local wellness program is run internally by a three-person benefits team.

Breakfast of Champions

Various activities include competitive walking programs in which teams of employees track their mileage and are rewarded by executives cooking breakfast for the winning team. Kasey Belyea, director of Total Rewards for Encore Capital Group, said one of the more valuable programs is onsite health and wellness screenings in which health screeners visit office locations or the homes of remote employees. Through licensed providers, blood draws are done to measure such things as body mass index and glucose levels to identify risks such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes. Results of the screenings are used to offer discounted medical premiums that are based on a points system. So, for example, if an employee reduces his or her body mass index toward a stated goal, that person can earn points that are used to determine which category they fall into for the discounted medical premium.

“We hope employees will use the results and go to a health care provider and seek out how they can prevent these illnesses from taking place,” said Belyea, adding that the company offers to pay 100 percent of preventable care pharmaceuticals.

The impact of the wellness activities can be seen in the number of staff who are taking classes such as yoga because of reimbursements and those using the stairs to get to Encore’s 10th and 13th floor offices, Belyea said.

“Because of the screenings and other wellness programs we’ve put in place, we’ve not had to increase employees’ contributions to their medical costs in over three years,” she said.

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