Firm Offers Gamut Of Health Services

September 26, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — It’s an article of faith that a healthy work force is a more productive work force.

And reportedly, many area employers are turning to MorningStar Health to manage health care and disability and to obtain overall assistance in maintaining employee well-being.

MorningStar Health offers several solutions to maintaining employee health and takes on the challenge of making each workplace healthy through what it terms its integrated care approach.

“We want to change how health care is delivered and we believe we can improve overall health and (reduce) length of sick time through integrated care,” said Gail Scott, a partner in MorningStar Health.

“We also want to serve as that bridge between the employee and the doctors in order to improve the relationship, and advocate for the employer and employee, as well as hopefully saving them money.”

Scott and partner Hugh Hufnagel propose to save companies money by going to bat for them during employee-physician negotiations.

Scott said that 70 percent of the time, doctors will write a patient off — keep him or her from the workplace more than 50 percent longer than they need to be off the job. The physician does this, Scott said, just to be safe.

The problem with doing so, she added, is that when the employee is off longer than necessary, there is a 30 percent chance that he or she could develop a second disease.

The answer to such situations, she said, is well-rounded attention, and attention to every aspect of an employee’s mental, physical and spiritual health.

She and Hufnagel are also looking at health care from a proactive rather than a reactive standpoint. Scott regards doing so as a practice that she feels, in the end, saves employers time and money.

“Looking at all aspects of a person’s health at the same time — and looking at it early — can really stop the high costs of numerous illnesses and extended time out of work,” Scott said.

“To assist with this, we look at developing a wellness plan with the doctor, have a nurse care manager on every case, have an ergonomist on staff and many other options for patients.”

Scott added that one reason MorningStar provides integrated care disability management services is because of the staggering statistics associated with health care costs and lost work time.

She said that, on average, direct and indirect costs of disability and absence exceed 20 percent of employers’ payrolls. Indirect disability costs exceed direct disability costs by a ratio of $3 to $1, she added.

In addition, Scott pointed out that in any given year, up to 70 percent of an employer’s cost of employee medical care will be generated by only 10 percent of its work force, specifically those who file either occupational or non-occupational disability claims. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that disability lost time exceeded medical costs by 69 percent.

To combat hard statistical facts, Scott said MorningStar focuses on its key initiatives to work with each case.

First, she said, the company pre-certifies every disability case.

It then marshals the skills of an interdisciplinary medical team — focused on holistic care — to provide the client’s employees with an objective physical, behavioral and complementary assessment when their time off work exceeds that of the best practice standard for a given diagnosis.

It is then that a comprehensive treatment plan is developed with the involvement of the physician to expedite the employee’s recovery and return to work.

“The health care system has changed drastically within the last five to 10 years with the integration of technology,” said Scott.

“Now, what used to take weeks to make better can be turned around within a few hours, and when we can treat the whole person, without financial barriers, they can get well sooner and be back to work sooner.”

At the completion of the assessment and treatment planning stage, MorningStar will then offer “advice to pay” to employers.

Scott said MorningStar will adjudicate the employer’s short-term disability benefit and provide a weekly report to the business owner and the third-party administrator, detailing all disabled employees who are eligible for benefits. The report includes employees’ demographics, gross weekly benefits, withholdings and net benefits to be paid.

MorningStar also offers care and disease management and medical director services. On-going care and disease management are available to employees or covered dependents with chronic or serious health conditions.

Medical director services are provided to companies interested in reducing their workers’ compensation costs and services are provided by a licensed physician in occupational medicine.

In addition to disability management services, MorningStar reports that it also provides an employer and employee assistance program.

“We understand that mental health is often just as important as physical health and studies have found that at least 10 percent of a company’s employees are experiencing personal problems that they cannot resolve on their own,” said Scott.

“And since the average return on investment for employers who provide EAPs is $4 for every $1 spent, it seems like an easy decision for the well-being of your employees.”

Scott added that while the bottom line is an important part of business, a business’s most valuable asset is its employees.

Sometimes, she said, putting health first will give the firm the bottom line boost that its owners are looking for.

“Healthy equals productive,” said Scott.

“Working together and putting the pieces together of total wellness can really improve workplace performance, attitude and the health of your employees.

“It is a great situation for all involved.”           

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