July 20, 2017

Corporate Health and Wellness Centers – A Viable Option to Saving On Health Care Costs

Sixty years ago, Western Growers Association launched the agriculture industry’s first program allowing agribusinesses to easily offer health plans to their employees: the Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT). Today, WGAT is the largest provider of health benefits for the agricultural industry specializing in highly customizable benefit plans to meet the diverse needs of owners, managers, field workers and seasonal employees. The Cedar Network, which features our four Cedar Health and Wellness Centers, is part of WGAT’s offerings.

We started including the Cedar Health and Wellness Centers and associated Cedar Network in every WGAT health plan five years ago to further deliver exceptional care options with lower copays than standard plans. With the annual cost of employer-sponsored family health coverage continuing to climb, we recognized that more needed to be done to control costs. As of last year, the Kaiser Family Foundation 2016 Health Benefits Survey indicated that premiums have reached $18,142 per family.

As I mentioned in the May-June issue of Western Grower & Shipper, by offering a company-sponsored health and wellness center to your employees, you save on health plan premiums and improve the overall health of your workforce. For example, a corporate health and wellness center can:

•   Help an employee manage (or better manage) a chronic condition. Local health centers make it more affordable for employees to meet with a doctor to make sure they are in compliance with their medication and on track with their treatment plan. Did you know that one chronic health condition, such as diabetes, is costing the U.S. economy more than $245 billion each year? According to the American Diabetes Association, direct medical costs are more than $176 billion and average medical costs more than double for someone who has diabetes as compared to someone who doesn’t.

•   Help decrease the use of more costly urgent care centers and emergency rooms. Studies show that employees with access to a local health and wellness center will use an urgent care center or emergency room less than working at a company that doesn’t offer that option.

•   Encourage employees to get their regular preventative screenings by making it easier to visit their local health center than seeing their regular doctor and for a lower copay. These screenings can also help a doctor catch potential chronic health conditions in the early stages when the treatment cost is far less than if the condition has progressed.

•   Make it easier for employees to see a physician when they have a cold or flu. This allows the employee to recover quicker, maintain productivity and take less days off from work than if they didn’t see a doctor because it was less convenient.

As executive vice president of the WGAT health plan, I am pleased with the success I have seen our clients experience when they have utilized the Cedar Network, especially when they have encouraged employees to use their local Cedar Health and Wellness Center. For example, one of our clients who incorporated a Cedar Health and Wellness Center benefit, enjoyed substantial savings on medication costs. Analytics showed that 92 percent of the medications that were dispensed at the health center were generic, with an average cost of $10.29 versus $104.63 for the brand medication. This center also received a 92 percent employee satisfaction rating on internal corporate surveys that showed it was a win-win for both employees and employer. As I mentioned earlier, the Cedar Network is included in every WGAT health plan and self-funded employers can purchase the network as an add-on to their benefit plan.

These financial savings really add up for an employer, which is why the trend for implementing an onsite or near-site health center has continued to grow in popularity. An employee benefits survey reported that while larger employers are leading the way in implementing onsite and near-site health care centers, small- and mid-size employers are implementing these centers too, and the numbers are increasing each year. The findings showed that, of those interviewed, 24 percent of employers with 3,000 or more full-time employees offered onsite health centers in comparison to 14 percent of employers with 100-2,999 employees and 9 percent of employers with 100 or less employees.

Just think of all the ways an employee can be healthier by having easier and more affordable access to a corporate health center. The benefits include going to the emergency room less often, receiving earlier treatment for illnesses and injuries and reducing the number of absences at work due to illness. Studies also show that employees’ loyalty improves for companies that offer a wellness program and/or corporate health center, which can attract talent and increase retention. These benefits translate into real savings for you as an employer. And who isn’t cost conscious these days!

For more information on purchasing a WGAT health plan, which includes access to our Cedar Health and Wellness Centers, please contact Western Growers Insurance Services at (800) 333-4WGA.