Many health insurance carriers offer funds that employers can use to pay for workplace wellness programs. These funds are called Wellness Dollars, and they can go a long way toward increasing productivity, decreasing employee turnover, and achieving other benefits that come along with a healthier workforce.
However, insurance carriers don’t always do a great job communicating when it comes to Wellness Dollars, and it can be a challenge to understand what they are, and how to make the most of them. Here’s what employers might not know about their insurer’s wellness reimbursement program.
You Can’t Use Wellness Dollars if You Don’t Know They Exist
The first step is awareness. Many employers just don’t know about these programs, because they haven’t heard about them. We don’t expect every HR department to be aware of Wellness Dollars, but many times their brokers aren’t knowledgeable either.
You might have access to wellness dollars on your current insurance policy and not even know it. Calling a representative from your carrier and asking if they offer a wellness reimbursement fund is the first step to getting started.
Wellness Dollars are Negotiable
If you don’t have a wellness fund, you might think you’re out of luck. There’s always a way to negotiate, no matter what the situation is with your carrier.
If your employees make a lot of claims and insurers want to raise your rates, you can ask for a wellness fund to help make people healthier. On the flipside, if your workforce is relatively healthy, you can ask for wellness dollars to help keep it that way.
If you already have wellness dollars, and you find a specific program you want to use them on, you can also call your insurer and ask for more. “Say hey, we found this great product, I know we have a certain amount of dollars, can we have some more to help pay for this product?”
Wellness Dollars Have a Wide Range of Uses
Many employers with access to wellness dollars aren’t clear on what they can spend them on. Calling your insurance carrier every time you have a question about what is and isn’t covered can be annoying, and add extra work for your HR team. Luckily, Ian has some good advice:
Most of the major insurance carriers will let you use wellness dollars to cover any third-party programs that medical providers don’t offer themselves. For example, if your medical provider doesn’t offer on-site fitness activities or wellness experiences, it’s likely that you’ll be able to use wellness dollars to hire a third-party vendor that provides these services.
Remember, these programs are negotiable. If you’re able to make the case that a specific product or program will increase the health of your employees, you can probably receive reimbursement for it from your insurance carrier.
Workplace Wellness Vendors Add Value For Everyone
When it comes to spending wellness dollars, choose a comprehensive third-party vendor, rather than relying on your HR department to source multiple wellness partners.
It can be really challenging to identify and negotiate a bunch of separate programs. On top of that, getting reimbursed for these costs becomes more difficult when you have several different bills.
Employers ought to look for vendors that offer lots of programs (like biometric screenings, fitness classes, and nutrition coaching) as part of one service. These programs don’t put any added strain on HR resources and are easier to negotiate for with insurers.
Wellness Programs Can be Used as a Recruiting Tool
Companies are starting to realize that wellness dollars and the programs they’re put to have additional benefits beyond increasing productivity and reducing insurance costs. If you can put things like weekly yoga classes on your careers page, that can help you attract better talent.
With unemployment rates at a record low, there’s increased competition for top talent. Putting wellness dollars to good use can have the added benefit of bringing some of that talent into your organization.
Wellness dollars might not be well-known or well-understood, but they can be well worth your time to research and pursue.
Jonathan is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fitspot. He co-founded Fitspot in 2016. As any CEO, he is doing anything from fundraising to closing deals, to planning for the future of Fitspot. Jon is a pizza aficionado who’s on the hunt for the best slice of pizza in NYC.