February 2018

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Brokers Gain Insights Into Employee Health and Wellness Engagement

Over 60 brokers and consultants were in attendance at the BHCG February 8 Broker/Consultant event, Engaging Employees & Building Cultures of Health hosted by Baird. Attendees heard from employers and a leading population health management expert, among others, on the benefits of motivating employees and dependents to make better decisions – about their health care and their own health.

Choose Well. Be Well.
Todd Smasal, director, total rewards at Northwestern Mutual, spoke about his company's journey to impact its health care cost trend and outcomes through better consumer decisions. He explained how they made the decision to go "all in" with their strategy to tier benefits and steer members to Premium care providers through the UnitedHealthcare Premium® designation program.

Smasal recounted how Northwestern Mutual's branded benefits strategy, Choose Well. Be Well., gradually built a tiered benefit structure and consumer-driven culture with a complete communication and education campaign to successfully lower both employer and employee cost trends. He said a majority of its health plan members utilize Premium providers (54.4 percent), but they are looking to do better. Their goal is to achieve 65 percent Premium provider utilization in 2018.

Building cultures of wellbeing
Dr. Ray Fabius, a population health thought leader and co-founder of HealthNEXT, offered attendees actionable information about population health management and what employers can do to build and sustain cultures of health and wellbeing. His company has developed a methodology to help employers build a corporate culture of health using an assessment tool that identifies gaps across 10 categories and creates a strategic plan to remedy the gaps.

Dr. Fabius stressed that employers must "get the right people to the right doctors at the right time at the right cost" and implement a campaign to help educate employees about how making better choices benefits them. An employer strategy should include getting a handle on the medically homeless rate, implementing health interventions, understanding determinants of health (e.g., lifestyle makes up 51 percent of mortality risk factors) and improving health status.

Dr. Fabius told the group moving forward on aggressively addressing the health of a workforce is a low risk investment opportunity. He said it directly impacts engagement and productivity and yields a positive return on investment.

Taking the Next Step
Lisa Mrozinski, director of total rewards for Baird relayed her company's commitment to building a culture of health. It began with a wellness program implemented in 2004. She reported today, the program has a 98 percent participation rate due to the use of incentives, surcharges and outcomes-based biometrics, as well as other innovative strategies.

Mrozinski said even though Baird's medical cost trend has gone down and remained steady, the company is now working with Dr. Fabius and the HealthNEXT team build a corporate culture of health and take wellness to the next level, because for them, it is not just about cost. She explained they were searching for the answer to the question, "How do we integrate health into our culture and how do we improve the lives of our associates?"

The event concluded with an important announcement by BHCG Executive Director Jeff Kluever and UnitedHealthcare's director of coalition strategy, Cece Hopkins. The duo announced UnitedHealthcare is launching a two-year pilot for UMR employers with Tier 1 plan designs. UnitedHealthcare will offer credits to completely offset the BHCG membership fee for UMR employers wishing to join BHCG.


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The Business Health Care Group leverages member employer purchasing power and knowledge to lead change. We create value through innovative shared strategies to improve health care quality and cost efficiency for employers, employees and the community. BHCG membership exceeds 200,000 covered lives in the 22-county region of eastern Wisconsin.