Health Care and Technology

Study pegs wellness programs as priority

June 30, 2016
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Priority Health doctor and patient
Grand Rapids-based Priority Health is an insurer that serves nearly 1-million members across Michigan. Photo via fb.com

Evidence from a local insurer suggests wellness plans provide cost and health benefits.

Priority Health, a Michigan-based nonprofit health plan, has completed a five-year study comparing members of its HealthbyChoice plan, which includes a wellness component, with members enrolled in plans that don’t include a wellness component and it has found a striking difference.

In the five-year study, Priority Health identified the impact of HealthbyChoice plans in two key areas: chronic conditions and cost.

The study compared nine employer groups with HealthbyChoice to nine groups without the plan, representing nearly 9,000 members.

Each member on a HealthbyChoice plan saved employers up to 12 percent in claims cost or, on average, $60 per month.

This reduction in overall health care costs helped save employers roughly $1.2 million over four years.

The study showed a marked reduction in the development of chronic conditions and disease in the HealthbyChoice population, specifically around chronic lung disease (27 percent less), diabetes (26 percent less) and ischemic heart disease (26 percent less).

Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Priority Health uses five indicators to measure employee health: tobacco use, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

The findings are important, because more than 75 percent of the $2.8 trillion in national health care costs are attributed to chronic disease, such as coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

And, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health, nearly 60 percent of Michigan’s population suffers from one or more chronic conditions; diseases that can largely be prevented by making comprehensive lifestyle changes.

Priority Health said the combined challenge of rising health care costs and the prevalence of chronic conditions take a toll on employee wellness, performance and attendance, and have a negative effect on employer overhead.

Priority Health said it is further enhancing its HealthbyChoice plan by adding online support tools among the products’ features. The plan will now offer tobacco cessation tools to help members quit smoking by setting goals and tracking progress. It will also offer quarterly health tracking opportunities for activity, nutrition and stress management.

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