Affordable Health Insurance Plans Employees’ Most Popular

As employees speak out in regard to health insurance programs NC survey shows that less costly and more affordable health insurance programs are the most popular with employees. Workers are slow to adopt most popular programs; financial incentives motivate behavior changes.

In today’s stressful economic environment, starting a workplace wellness program may be the furthest thing from employers’ minds, but creating a healthier workforce is more important than ever to contain rising health care costs and reduce the health impact employees are facing in these uncertain times.

According to a statewide poll commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), employers are still slow to adopt jobsite wellness programs even though they help improve employees’ health, increase loyalty, and the most popular ones aren’t costly to implement.

“With the economy the way it is, employers might be tempted to cut back on wellness programs,” said Bob Greczyn, president and CEO of BCBSNC. “But now’s not the time to cut back, because we’ll all be paying the price in the long run.”

In June, more than 500 employees from around the state were surveyed about workplace wellness programs and the results were compiled into the Healthy on the Job report which was presented today in Raleigh at the 2008 State of Preventive Health Summit.

The results showed the most popular workplace wellness programs with employees are:

* Paid time off for doctor’s visits or health care needs: 78 percent
* Purchasing healthy café or vending options: 67 percent
* Participating in physical activity during work hours: 67 percent
* Completing a health risk assessment (HRA): 66 percent

However, the survey showed that most employers aren’t offering these popular programs. Only 35 percent of employers offer physical activity during the workday, 29 percent offer healthy café or vending options and 31 percent offer health risk assessments. Just 61 percent of employers are offering paid time off for doctor’s visits according to the survey.

Financial incentives are effective in changing worker behavior, according to the survey. Discounts on health insurance premiums have the highest motivational impact on being physically active, losing weight and receiving preventive care. It ranks second among smokers for motivating them to quit smoking. Proof that employers recognize incentives as good motivators: Nearly half of employers offering health risk assessments offer rewards for completing them.

Workplace wellness programs also contribute to employee loyalty. Employees who participated in at least one wellness program more often say they like working for their employer and are more likely to recommend their company to others. What’s more, employees who took paid time off for doctor’s visits and engaged in physical activity at their worksite had higher loyalty scores than those who didn’t participate or whose employers didn’t offer it.

“Too many of our employees are making bad choices about physical activity and nutrition – add stress on top of that and the impact of our health is going to hit the bottom line,” said Greczyn. “Lifestyle and behavior changes are harder to come by. It’s going to take a concerted effort on the part of employers to set the standard so that employees can become healthier on the job.”

Three North Carolina employers have done their part to set the standard. These organizations are highlighted in the Healthy on the Job report for their best practices:

o Durham County has created a culture of wellness through providing an on-site clinic for its employees and giving employees an extra half-hour at lunch to exercise.

o Progress Energy established its wellness program, Healthy Progress in 2007, by establishing a core wellness team and identifying wellness coordinators and champions.

o Inmar in Winston-Salem has built meaningful financial incentives for its employees to participate in a chronic disease management program, tobacco cessation classes and track their physical activity.

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