Even before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and healthcare reforms mandated cost-free preventative services to employees, employers across the country – and several in Traverse City – were already embracing wellness programs for their employees.
A number of local companies say that wellness programs, fitness incentives, lifestyle counseling and reduced insurance premiums for employees who meet certain health standards are contributing to happier and more productive workforces and saving money in the long run.
“Certainly, there's a correlation between offering employees wellness programming and decreased costs,” says Gretchen Overbeek, a human resources manager who oversees wellness benefits at Traverse City-based Hagerty. Overbeek says that funds invested by the company in staff health and fitness in the short term are recouped long-term through reduced illness and absenteeism, as well as greater employee output.
“Our focus has always been on helping the people who work here become even better, both personally and professionally," she says. "Wellness is a part of that betterment. The (financial ROI) is a bonus."
Hagerty offers a broad range of benefits designed to encourage employee health, including an annual $150 wellness reimbursement (applicable to gym memberships, weight loss groups, smoking cessation programs and other health-related plans), an on-site fitness facility, bike repair reimbursement for cycling commuters, 5K training programs and a farm consortium in which employees can order groceries from local farms and have them delivered to work.
“We've had overwhelmingly positive feedback on (the program),” says Overbeek, who notes Hagerty's on-site gym has netted over 3,500 class visits and 130 full-time memberships since the beginning of 2013. "People are losing weight and becoming healthier.”
From a company public relations perspective, staff health is perhaps nowhere as important as in the medical field. At Munson Medical Center, Wellness Coordinator Lynsday Douglass oversees implementation of the hospital's HealthbyChoice Incentives program through Priority Health, which rewards employees meeting certain health standards with lower out-of-pocket insurance costs and deductibles.
Douglass agrees that “a healthy workforce is a productive and happy workforce,” but also acknowledges that working in an industry where staff is advising others on their health requires a higher company standard for well-being.
“We've spent a lot of time (internally) talking about the fact that we're role models for our patients and for the community,” Douglass says, noting that 89 percent of the 5,300 Munson employees and spouses who qualify for HealthbyChoice Incentives are currently participating in the program.
Healthcare experts and local physicians like Dr. Laura Hill affirm that preventative care can go a long way toward reducing long-term patient health risks – and costs. Hill, a family practice doc at Brookside Family Medicine in TC, says 70 percent of chronic diseases stem from preventative causes, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
“Having work options – such as on-site classes or healthy cafeteria choices – helps reduce barriers for people to access resources” that can curtail those causes, she says.