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Wellness programs


Applying wellness programs to reduce costs and help injured employees appears to be gaining interest across the workers comp industry.

But while the early programs out there seem to be attracting employer interest and claimant participation, measurable results are a few years away.

Some readers may recall that in August 2010, I wrote a story about early wellness programs in workers comp that included details about Denver-based Pinnacol Assurance launching one for its policyholders and their injured employees.

That story is available here.

The long-tail nature of workers comp claims means outcomes studies on how Pinnacol's wellness efforts have impacted improvements in return to work, for example, remain a few years away, Karen Curran, director of health risk management for Pinnacol recently told Comp.

“Those are the kind of things we won't see for three to five years,” she said. “The tail is just too long.”

But today, 64% of employees covered by Pinnacol policies have participated in health risk assessments. That bodes well for Pinnacol's wellness program, Ms. Curran said.

In contrast, only about 5% to 8% of employees participate in wellness programs sponsored by employers' health plan side of the house, Ms. Curran added.

Part of the reason for Pinnacol's success is that its policyholders are very small employers with fewer than 10 employees.

It's easier for insurance agents and Pinnacol to engage those employers in one-on-one discussion about wellness and those employers, in turn, have direct contact with their workers.

In contrast, large corporations may have so many workers that neither the CEO nor the health benefits staff can personally engage many of them.

So Pinnacol's wellness program take up by employees might differ greatly from what larger employers would experience if they applied wellness teachings for their comp claimants.

But a healthcare wellness program that one very large employer is now tapping for its work comp claimants also appears to be showing early success, although the program is only 10 months old so there are no statistics yet.

A story describing that employer's efforts is available here.

The early anecdotal evidence for that program suggests that injured workers participating in the employers' wellness offerings for smoking cessation, back health improvements and weight management appear to be sticking with the program once they get involved, according to Broadspire, the Atlanta-based TPA.

They are not leaving the programs once introduced to them.

You can learn how that employer and Broadspire are getting those workers involved by reading the story mentioned above.