IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIDK/KIFI) - It's no secret the cost of health care continues to rise. Unlike gas prices, the price of health care never goes down or even fluctuates. It has always been a steady upward increase.
But more and more employers are taking advantage of a health care option from insurance companies to help lower health care spending and improve the overall health of their employees.
Health care costs are the second highest expense for employers, right behind payroll. To help lower these costs, employers and insurance companies are teaming up to offer a wellness plan as part of an employee's health insurance plan.
"The larger the employer, the more likely that a wellness plan is offered," said Ryan Anderson, an independent insurance broker for Anderson Insurance Agency. "It actually gives companies more latitude to build in premium discount or penalties, depending on how you look at it, into what they can charge employees for participating or not participating in their wellness program."
Anderson said, historically, a company could offer up to a 20 percent discount on premiums for wellness program participation, but the Affordable Care Act actually bumped that up to 30 percent if a company chooses to go that far.
"Our company sees it as a way for the employee to take ownership of their own health. They can know by the numbers where they're at with their health. They can know that with these programs and so forth that not exercising and weight and smoking and whatever is not good for their health. And they can kind of take a proactive approach with their health," said Monte Young, general manger of NPG of Idaho.
On the road to wellness, the incentive to participate in an insurance wellness program helps all three parties involved. For the employee, it lowers the monthly premium. For employers, who pay for a wellness program, they are hoping this leads to fewer expensive claims as a company by offering the preventative care. And for the insurance company, they would much rather pay smaller amounts now for preventative health care than major expenses for serious claims later.
"We've had actually people here and within our company that we found people that there's been something medically they were able to catch because of our wellness program and they were able to treat it and maybe, in one condition, maybe save somebody's life, but definitely save people from some long-term health conditions that they might have had if we wouldn't have caught that early," said Young.
According to a report from Society for Human Resource Management, smaller employers are backing away from wellness program mainstays like on-site flu shots. Organizations are looking at what works well and what doesn't. But larger employers are expanding wellness options to include mental and financial health. Some even offer health savings accounts or an HSA. Anderson said an HSA is the best tax-savings tool around, even better than a Roth IRA or 401(k) because it offers triple tax benefits; it's pre-tax, it grows tax free, and you can access it tax free. Ask your employer or insurance provider for information.