Going for gold: Cleveland Clinic saves by boosting worker wellness

Employees say initiative 'kick started' their health

Topics: Health and Wellness, Benefits, Labor Expense, Finance, Benefits, Labor Expense, Workforce

February 17, 2012

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently examined the Cleveland Clinic's "Healthy Choice" program, which aims to cut costs by boosting employee wellness.

How the program works
Since 2010, more than 50% of Cleveland Clinic's 29,000 employees have participated in the Healthy Choice program. Participants are required to see a physician who assesses their health, including body mass index and smoking habits, as well as diagnoses chronic conditions, such as diabetes or asthma.

If the physician identifies any problems, they help the employee set individualized wellness goals and strategies for meeting them. Cleveland Clinic also supplies employees with various resources to help them meet their goals, such as no-cost Weight Watchers meetings, yoga classes, and gym memberships.

Rewards for employees
Cleveland Clinic employee health insurance premiums increased by 9% in 2010 and 17% in 2011, but workers enrolled in the Healthy Choice program who met their goals did not have to pay the hikes. This year, the Clinic has divided its employees into three insurance rate groups:

  • Gold group: Healthy Choice participants who met their program goals will see a 4% decrease in premiums over 2011;
  • Silver group: Healthy Choice participants who made progress but failed to meet their goals will see a 9% increase in premiums over 2011; and
  • Bronze group: Employees who did not participate in the Healthy Choice program will see a 21% increase in premiums over last year.

Employee reaction to the program
Many employees say they are pleased with the program, which they credit for helping them "jump start" their health. For example, one Cleveland Clinic employee has lost 30 pounds since March 2010 and now maintains a regular exercise schedule. In addition, her blood pressure and cholesterol levels have dropped. For her progress, she may be in the "gold" insurance category this year.

However, some workers have criticized the program, which they say takes a "big-brother" approach to health care. In online posts, some employees have said they would prefer their employer to be less involved in managing their diet and wellness.

Paul Terpeluk, the medical director of the Clinic's Employee Health Services, says the program aims to help employees "embrace health, not be punished." He notes that the system is "not forcing people to do anything, but as a health care institution, we do feel this is the right thing to do" (Theiss [1], Plain Dealer, 2/12; Theiss [2], Plain Dealer, 2/12).

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