Chamber Health Expo Scheduled For Aug. 29

August 20, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce uses a one-word description of the cost of health care hitting a business's bottom line: "BOOM!" That's in the heading of the organization’s flyer advertising an upcoming special event for employers.

In a survey of its members last December, the Chamber heard from a majority of them that employee wellness, prevention, promotion of healthy lifestyles and lower health care costs should be top priorities for 2007. The Chamber has also noted that more than 80 percent of American businesses with 50 or more employees have a health promotion program.

In support of that strategy for reducing health-related costs, the Chamber is presenting its "Healthy Choices, Healthy Businesses" Expo. The expo is free and open to any company or organization, not just Chamber members. It will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 29 in the Crowne Plaza, 5700 28th St. SE.

"Health care cost is such a critical business issue these days, and there is so much happening," said Andy Johnston, public policy coordinator at the Chamber. He said the Healthy Choices, Healthy Businesses Expo will feature 35 or 40 exhibits where Chamber member companies will offer services and products that can help employers reduce employee health care costs, absenteeism and turnover, while improving employee wellness and productivity.

There will also be various breakout sessions on topics including how to run a wellness program and how to retool an existing one.

Blue Care Network's Healthy Blue Living can reportedly help a company cut its health care cost by 11 percent after the first year. Kevin Klobucar of Blue Care Network will present a seminar at the Expo on Healthy Blue Living. Retail Health will offer health and wellness screenings, and Cindy Bjorkquist, director of wellness at Blue Cross Blue Shield, will present "Making the Most of Wellness Programs."

Johnston said the small business community in particular is interested in wellness programs for employees.

"Folks like Alticor and Steelcase have the resources to run a successful wellness program, but how does that translate for small businesses?" said Johnston. He added that the Expo will provide guidance for smaller companies.

Even so, HR representatives of larger companies will also find value in the Expo, noted Johnston.

One of the major developments in managing health care costs is the increasingly popular use of a "consumer-driven" health plan, said Johnston. It generally involves health coverage plans with higher deductibles and methods of funding such as health savings accounts (HSAs), as opposed to the health reimbursement account (HRA), which turned over each year and returned unused cash balances to the employer. It was popular with employers, maybe, but not the consumer — the employee. Some employees refused to participate in HRAs.

"HRAs are dinosaurs," said Johnston. "HSAs are the way to go."

The Chamber has collected information for its members, spelling out what a consumer-driven plan is. In general, it shifts more of the health care cost to the employee "but it also creates more educated health care consumers," said Johnston.

Obviously, a healthier employee is better for the company's bottom line.

While there is no charge to attend, companies or organizations that want to send a representative to the Healthy Choices, Healthy Businesses Expo are asked to register in advance by calling (616) 771-0335, or by e-mailing the company name, representative's name and contact information to Johnston at

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