By Ian Chuang, M.D., M.S., F.C.F.P. Senior Vice President,  Medical Director Lockton Benefit Group

By Ian Chuang, M.D., M.S., F.C.F.P. Senior Vice President, Medical Director Lockton Benefit Group

Employers are looking for ways to reduce soaring health care costs, and passing along a higher percentage of insurance premiums to employees will only take them so far. That approach simply shifts costs temporarily to an earlier point in time. Instead the goal should be to slow the rate of increase, changing the slope of the cost curve.

Claims follow risk; that’s why the majority of employers who provide health insurance also provide some type of wellness benefit. The 2012 Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust annual survey of employer health benefits found that 63 percent of companies that offered health benefits also offered at least one wellness program, with a goal of changing those behaviors that lead to disease and cost.

Although many small and medium companies already offer some level of wellness program, the perception is often that full-blown wellness programs are achievable primarily at large organizations. What leaders of smaller organizations need to understand, however, is they have some distinct advantages in what they may be able to achieve for their employees if a wellness program is approached in the right way.

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

When you’re a company like Disney, with more than 40,000 employees in the United States alone, you can assume that whatever is true for the general U.S. population also is likely to be true for your employees. The approach of trying a variety of wellness activities and hoping something will work has validity in such large organizations. When your organization has fewer than 2,000 employees, however, you can’t safely make such assumptions.

Measuring the health of the employee population is of paramount importance for smaller organizations, where the distribution of health risks tends to be unique. A health risk management consultant can be crucial in helping you identify your risks and determining the best ways to mitigate those risks with a well-designed health risk strategic plan. After all, part of achieving a positive ROI is managing the right amount of “I”.

When you rely solely on claims data, you have quantitative insights only for those employees who actually use their health benefit. Therefore it’s crucial to complete your understanding of your employee population by integrating claims data with data from health risk assessments and biometric screenings. The data collected will help you do three things:

•Fully identify the types of health issues and potential risk factors