Browse Tag

wellness programs

Making the Most of Wellness Programs

More people in Texas and across the country are gaining access to well-being programs that encourage consumers to adopt healthier lifestyles and, ideally, help curb health care costs. According to a recent study, 87 percent of employers are committed to workplace well-being efforts, and nearly 73 percent offer a program. 

These efforts are already producing results: Among people with access to employer-sponsored well-being programs, 57 percent said the initiatives had a positive effect on their health, according to the 2019 UnitedHealthcare Wellness Check Up Survey. Among those, 82 percent said they were motivated to pay more attention to their health; 63 percent said they increased physical activity; 59 percent improved their diet; and 30 percent reported improved sleep.

As people seek to improve their health habits, here are some tips to help consumers become healthier and make the most of their well-being programs: 

Modify Lifestyle Choices: As many as 80 percent or more of the incidence of premature chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are caused by modifiable lifestyle choices – such as risk factors like smoking or obesity – as opposed to being caused by genetic factors, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With that in mind, people should consider ways to make healthier choices throughout the workday, such as starting or participating in walking meetings, using onsite fitness equipment or taking advantage of biometric screenings, or opting for a stand-up desk. During breaks, choose healthier snacks such as fruits and vegetables, while go-to lunches can include a sandwich with a lean protein – such as turkey or chicken breast – or a visit to the salad bar. 

Earn Available Incentives: Mid-sized and large employers this year will offer an average per-employee well-being incentive of $762, according to a study by the National Business Group on Health. Check with your HR department to determine what well-being incentives might be available to you. For instance, some programs enable people to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily walking goals. Other initiatives provide discounts on gym memberships and premium discounts for meeting various health benchmarks, such as a non-nicotine use or normal blood pressure. 

Start to Socialize: Recent research shows that meaningful relationships may be crucial for overall health. By incorporating social components into your well-being or fitness routine, you may be more likely to stick with it. The Wellness Check Up Survey found that over half of respondents said they are more likely to participate in a fitness routine if there is a social component, either in-person or virtually. Potential strategies include participating in walking groups, going to group fitness classes or joining recreational leagues such as basketball or tennis.       

Beat Burnout: Most employees said meditation, or mindfulness, has a positive impact on a person’s overall health, according to the Wellness Check Up Survey. To encourage mindfulness, ask your company to devote office space for “relaxation rooms” to help employees lower their stress levels, or inquire about adding an online or phone-based mindfulness program. For a do-it-yourself “mindfulness kit” to take with you to work, grab health-related items such as caffeine-free tea, a stress ball or a gratitude journal.       

Make the Most of Medicare: People eligible for Medicare – i.e., Americans 65 and older – can also take advantage of well-being programs and incentives. Medicare Advantage plans may offer rewards for actions that help you stay healthy and active, as well as additional wellness programs not available through Original Medicare. These can include fitness memberships, online brain games, nutritional support, and access to vitamins and over-the-counter health items at no additional cost.

UnitedHealthcare Survey: More Companies and Employees are Utilizing Wellness Programs

Most employees with access to company wellness programs claim they have made a positive impact on their health, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey: “Wellness Check up.”

The nationwide survey’s key findings include:

  • Most employees say they are interested in wellness programs. Nearly 75 percent of all employees say they are interested in wellness programs, while 59 percent of people with access to such programs said the initiatives have made a positive impact on their health.
  • Many employees underestimate available wellness incentives. Nearly two thirds of respondents underestimate potential wellness-related financial incentives available through employer programs, which average $742 per employee per year, according to a recent study by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).
  • Some employees are willing to spend more than one hour per day on wellness. Thirty-six percent of the people surveyed said they are willing to devote more than an hour per day on health-related activities, such as consistent exercise, researching healthy food or recipes, or engaging in wellness coaching.
  • More employees own activity trackers. Twenty-five percent of employees own an activity tracker, nearly double the 13 percent in 2016, according to a previous UnitedHealthcare survey. By 2018, companies nationwide are expected to help reduce obesity and sedentary time among employees.

For complete survey results here.

5 Tips for Selecting the Right Health Benefits

5-tips-for-selecting-the-right-health-benefits-image-1Fall signals the start of many annual traditions – a new school year, football season, and holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. Fall is also the season for another important annual tradition: open enrollment, when many people have an opportunity to select or change their health benefits for the following year.

With the vast majority of Americans – approximately 155 million – obtaining health benefits through their employer, it’s an important time to ensure you make choices that support you and your family’s needs.

Selecting the right health benefits can feel challenging, but reviewing the available options and choosing carefully can help you find solutions that can work for you and help you make more informed choices that may improve your health and even save money.

To make open enrollment season easier, consider these five tips:

  1. Take time to review your options: Don’t wait until the last minute to make your benefit elections or rush through the process. Instead, start early and get your questions answered. Your employers and health plan representatives are available to help with the process. Remember there’s more to each plan than co-payments, deductibles and premiums. Take a few minutes to check if your doctor is in the plan’s care provider network and that your prescriptions are covered.
  2. Look for incentive-based wellness programs: Some health plans, including UnitedHealthcare, offer wellness programs that enable people to earn financial incentives – such as lower premium costs or deductible credits – for completing health assessments, signing up for a health coaching program, lowering cholesterol, going to a gym or even using a fitness tracker to monitor daily walking patterns. These incentives can help save you money, in some cases up to $1,500 a year, and encourage you and your family to practice healthier behaviors.
  3. Take advantage of health care apps and online tools: Many health plans have created apps and online resources to help people locate a health care professional or check if their doctors are in-network, compare treatment costs, review claims and find more information about their health plans. For instance, the Health4Me app (available for Apple and Android devices) makes it possible for all consumers to comparison shop based on quality and cost for more than 875 common medical services across nearly 600 health events.
  4. Open a Health Savings Account: More employers are offering health plans that include a Health Savings Account (HSA) option. An HSA is like a personal bank account specifically for health-related expenses – you own all the money in it, including contributions from your employer. HSAs offer a triple tax advantage: money is deposited pre-tax from your paycheck and accrues interest tax-free, and withdrawals are not taxed as long as funds are used for qualified health-related expenses.
  5. Don’t overlook other important benefits available to you: Specialty benefits, such as dental, vision, accident or critical illness insurance plans, are often lower-cost options that can protect you and your family from head to toe. Research shows a connection between oral health and overall health, so adding a dental plan may help prevent larger medical problems. A vision plan may offer eye exams that can identify chronic conditions like diabetes, and offer reduced pricing on frames and lenses. Critical illness plans can provide important financial benefits for unexpected health situations.

For help navigating open enrollment, visit UnitedHealthcare’s new online resource Health Care ABCs (www.uhc.com/healthcareabcs), which provides easy-to-understand information about health benefits and health care topics so people can make the right choices for themselves and their families.

Dave Milich, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of South Texas, discusses ways consumers can make the most of their open enrollment.

Dave Milich, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of South Texas
Dave Milich, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of South Texas