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Worksite Health

Carrier Program vs. Third Party Wellness Vendor

03/03/2009

Question:

I am inquiring what your experience with wellness programs are- is it better to have your carrier provide a wellness program, and offer it only to your health plan members. Or, is it better to hire a third pary wellness vendor- and offer it to all employees?

On that note- if you use your carrier for wellness and incent these programs- but want to extend incentives to all employees- how can you do this? If you offer a health plan discount to some members- can you offer cash to the others?

Thanks.

Answer:

Determining the goal(s) for any wellness program that you want to implement is a key initial decision. After identifying key goals for the program, exploring vendor options would be the next step. Finding the option that meets the majority of the organization's goals will help you with decision making.

Most insurance carriers offer some type of health promotion or wellness plan options to covered members. Encouraging use of those already available programs would be an easy and cost-effective option to pursue. That choice would also work well for an organization that has limited internal resources to support such an effort.

On the other hand, since it is unlikely that all employees within an organization are covered by the same carrier, an organization may wish to find an outside vendor to manage such a program for all employees and/or to work with internal staff to support their efforts. This type of comprehensive plan may have an increased likelihood of leading to goal attainment. This option also offers the opportunity to be more strategic in working towards specific outcomes (e.g., decreasing specific high health care costs, etc.).

Finally, some organizations opt for a "mixed" approach due to geographic differences, size and location differences, plan participation differences, etc. For example, larger locations that can support an internal fitness center may decide to offer fitness center membership discounts to those employees working in a smaller location that is financially unable to support an internal exercise facility.

Whatever the final decision is, developing a plan that supports that core mission of the organization and meets the comprehensive program goals is vital for its success.

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Response by:

Elizabeth R Click, ND, RN, CWP Elizabeth R Click, ND, RN, CWP
Assistant Professor of Nursing and Medical Director
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Case Western Reserve University