Monday, May 12, 2008

Companies Offer Wellness Programs To Cut Insurance Costs

“Such company initiatives to promote worker wellness -- from on-site yoga classes to smoking cessation programs -- are becoming more widespread as employers wrestle with soaring health care costs, said Geri Recht, principal in the Pittsburgh office of management consulting firm Towers Perrin and group leader of health and welfare for the firm's Pittsburgh and Ohio region. ‘In the last five years it's become a bigger and bigger trend,’ she said. ‘It started with some [health club] discount programs and progressed to being as aggressive as hiring someone to be on site ... to manage employee wellness.’ A study released this year by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine found 62 percent of all companies -- ranging from small to medium and large -- offer some type of wellness program. While five years ago wellness programs typically were offered by insurance companies as part of benefit plans, now employers are anxious to develop and execute them internally to make sure they impact as many workers as possible, said Ms. Recht. "Today, it's the employer's program."