Employers Shift Costs, Responsibility to Workers
Employers increasingly are working to "shift additional medical costs to workers and provide incentives for workers to pay more attention to their own health," USA Today reports.
For example, UnitedHealthcare this month plans to offer to mid-sized employers in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado a high-deductible health plan under which employees could help offset the cost of the deductible -- provided that they meet specific standards for nicotine use, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and height-weight ratio in tests conducted at a workplace clinic administered by BeniComp, a benefits administrator in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Employees who meet the specific standards could receive as many as four credits valued at $500 each to help offset the cost of the deductible. Employees who do not meet the specific standards could enroll in weight-loss and other health management classes through UnitedHealthcare.
In 2004, Swiss Village Retirement Community, a not-for-profit company in Berne, Ind., implemented a similar health plan.
Swiss Village switched employees from a health plan with a $500 annual deductible to a plan with a $2,500 annual deductible. Swiss Village also offered employees a supplemental plan sponsored by BeniComp under which they can receive credits valued at as much as $2,000, provided that they maintain a healthy weight, do not smoke, and meet specific standards for blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Daryl Martin, executive director of Swiss Village, said that health care costs for the company have decreased from 11.5% of wages before the switch to 9.1% in the first year after the switch and to 7.5% thereafter. As a result, health insurance premiums for Swiss Village employees have not increased in three years, Martin said. BeniComp offers the supplemental plan in 37 states.
According to USA Today, the "policies are among the first to set a financial price for achieving actual results, rather than just making attempts to control conditions thought to play a role in development of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke" (Appleby, USA Today, 7/11).