Corporate health promotion managers have new data to justify wellness initiatives for employees and dependents, according to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The report highlights a new poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the American Hospital Association’s Health Research and Educational trust. Data from over 2000 private companies as well as state and local government agencies reveals the average cost of a family policy jumped 9% to $15,073 in 2011.

Employers continue to pass an increasing portion of health insurance costs to workers. On average, employees are paying 28% of premiums for family plans in 2011; since 2001, the employee portion has risen by 131%. A recent report by Mercer predicts the overall health benefit cost increase for 2012 will be 5.4%, the lowest rise in 15 years — but cost growth is still higher than inflation and worker pay raises.

So What?

The problem of rising health benefit costs is old news — but this year’s was the highest rate increase since 2005… yet wages are barely moving, with an average increase of 2.1% for 2011. And those are excellent reasons for human resources managers and health promotion coordinators to take note — and take action.

Flat wage increases plus big jumps in health benefit costs mean consumers and employers are on the lookout for ways to save money — and that’s where health promotion comes in. Conditions are ripe to make the case for investing in employee and dependent well-being — while inspiring workers to boost personal cost savings by taking better care of themselves.

When they arrive at the conclusion that sedentary, high-stress, poor-nutrition lifestyles will cost them money, and preventive care within healthy lifestyles will save them money, the trickle of interest in wellness services will turn into a stream, then a flood.

What to Do
Here’s how to prepare for the coming wave:

  • Enlist management support. Health promotion needs full management support. Design a series of communications from leaders to help create and sustain enthusiasm. For more ideas, download our free Management Support — Inspiring Wellness Leadership white paper.
  • Highlight in all of your communications the personal costs associated with unhealthy lifestyles as well as the personal savings individuals can expect from healthy habits.
  • Design programs and communications to target family involvement. Almost 80% of healthcare decisions are made at home — and most of these are made by women. Children and teens account for 14.7% of typical healthcare costs for a large employer — not including the productivity loss for working parents of sick and injured children. For practical ideas, download our free Promoting Wellness on the Home Front white paper.
  • Focus on action-oriented, fun wellness initiatives that remove barriers to healthy living and make healthy choices easier — like onsite walking programs and nutritious food/vending selections.
  • Integrate wellness messages with retirement planning communications. Help employees grasp a realistic sense of retirement healthcare costs — and how their habits and choices now can dramatically reduce their risk of costly medical problems later in life.
  • Reinforce the message of ownership — “It’s your health and it’s your money; reap the rewards, pocket the savings.”

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