Wellness programs have been an integral component of health plans for many organizations, particularly on the heels of healthcare reform and provisions in the Affordable Care Act that encourage adoption of these programs to help stem health insurance costs. But a wellness program, if properly implemented, can also make a positive impact on an organization’s Workers’ Compensation premiums.
Employers, including those in the home health care industry, that have holistic wellness programs that are focused on prevention, integrated with risk management and committed to tailored employee communication, can project improvement in safety results and the overall workplace environment and reduce workplace accidents, medical claims and the total cost of risk to an organization. Some Workers’ Compensation carriers are now rewarding insureds with successful wellness programs by offering credits on their premiums.
What makes an effective wellness program in helping to minimize job-related accidents and illnesses?
Focus on Prevention.
In a Duke University Medical Center report conducted ten years ago (of which insurers took notice), obese employees filed twice the number of Workers’ Comp claims as compared to their non-obese colleagues, had seven times the amount of medical costs and spent 13 times the amount of days away from work after a workplace injury or illness. In addition, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) discovered that within a nine-year time frame, the number of claims with a comorbidity diagnosis for obesity or an associated illness almost tripled. NCCI also noted claimants with a comorbidity indicator for obesity had five times the amount of indemnity benefit duration than claimants who did not, and approximately twice the amount of medical costs.
The bottom line: Preventable and manageable health conditions, such as obesity, are significant contributing factors to Workers’ Compensation claims and medical costs. Employers focusing on prevention within their wellness program can help to mitigate some of the injuries, illnesses, and costs associated with preventable diseases. Additionally, offering incentives for good health behavior that focus on prevention and encourage healthy habits will allow employees to become active participants and take ownership of their health. Incentives that revolve around smoking cessation, healthy eating, physical activity and a drug-free lifestyle not only create a prevention-based wellness program that helps with an organization’s health insurance premiums but also improves upon its Workers’ Compensation results.
Integrate Wellness with Risk Management & Occupational Health & Safety Programs.
Increasingly more organizations are integrating wellness initiatives into their risk management programs and workplace health and safety plans. This is because very few workplace safety issues can be separated from an employee’s overall health. For example, many factors—some preventable or manageable health conditions—contribute to falls, musculoskeletal injuries (e.g., strains and sprains), and the recovery time from accidents and injuries. Everyone benefits from healthy employees and safe work environments. Employers can integrate their risk management and wellness programs by having a member of the wellness committee on an organization’s safety committee and vice versa. This enables both programs to be educated and updated on industry best practices. The initiatives should be tailored to fit the needs of the individual organization and its specific industry.
Moreover, employees at companies with risk management and safety programs may be more likely to participate in wellness programs, as they see that management cares about providing a safe work environment. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “…comprehensive practices and policies that take into account the work environment—both physical and organizational—while also addressing the personal health risks of individuals, are more effective in preventing disease and promoting health and safety than each approach taken separately.”
In implementing a new or modified safety and wellness program, managers must effectively engage employees—and that starts with the design process. Consult with employees throughout the program design, implementation, and evaluation to ensure employees find the program appealing.
Evaluate the Program.
An integrated safety and wellness program should be evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure it is positively impacting employee health and Workers’ Compensation claims. Establish reasonable, measurable goals and evaluate both the processes and outcomes of the program. Shifts in a company’s workforce may require changes in the safety and wellness programs. An effective program must be flexible and ready to respond to unforeseen or challenging situations.
About Manchester Specialty
Manchester Specialty provides Workers’ Compensation insurance solutions to home health care and hospice at home providers, as well as VNAs and companion care firms. In addition to our insurance programs, we offer customized risk management programs, loss control services and safety programs with our partner insurance carriers. For more information about our Workers’ Compensation solutions and services, you or your local insurance agent/broker may contact us at 855.972.9399.