Even as employers embrace workplace wellness and on-site clinics more than ever, there is still a healthy bit of skepticism about whether they actually pay off. But OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc. credits its clinic and wellness program for the lion’s share of a 15-percent reduction in per-employee costs for health care.
The Indianapolis-based life insurance and retirement benefits company had been experiencing double-digit increases in health insurance claims for much of the past decade.
But in the last five years, it has ramped up a wellness program, instituted a high-deductible health plan and, in April 2011, opened a primary care clinic for its employees in the basement of the downtown tower that serves as its headquarters.
It has all started to pay off. After absorbing a 25-percent increase in premiums in 2009, the increases narrowed to 12.3 percent in 2010, 6.6 percent the following year, and just 2 percent last year.
“It could be even lower this year,” said Debby Routt, OneAmerica’s vice president of compensation and benefits, citing medical claims trends through the first quarter.
Routt credits nearly two-thirds of that declining trend to OneAmerica's wellness and clinic program, which OneAmerica calls Active Choices. The clinic is operated by Indianapolis-based OurHealth, one of several firms riding the growing popularity of employer-based primary care clinics.
Each year, OneAmerica has seen about three-quarters of its 1,250 downtown employees use the clinic, where care is free, as are 85 generic prescription drugs.
About 90 percent of the visits were for treating illness, rather than for health coaching, but Routt would like that mix to shift over time to be 50-50.
Those visits helped push up the total number of physician visits by OneAmerica workers and their families 15 percent in the year after the clinic opened. But in that same year, OneAmerica’s health plan members also recorded 26-percent fewer inpatient hospital visits and 21-percent fewer outpatient procedures.
That’s what every employer wants to see, since hospital visits are far more expensive than consultations with a physician.
OneAmerica allows employees' families to use the clinic, although it no longer allows spouses to be on its health plan if they have benefits thorugh their own employers.
Those changes combined reduced OneAmerica’s per-employee spending on health care 15.4 percent from 2011 to 2012.
And next year, OneAmerica will change its health plan to include only high-deductible health plans—although still allow workers to choose from three designs.
Routt hopes those new admustments continue to drive down OneAmerica’s expenses by encouraging employees to change their health behaviors.
“Next year, I’m hoping it's even less,” she said.