Insurance costs are rising, and many employers are finding it more and more painful to cut that check to their carrier every month.
It’s a lose-lose-lose situation. You can choose to cut benefits, which will dramatically reduce employee engagement, risk the health of your workforce, and maybe even cause key personnel to leave the company. You can raise employee premiums to help cover the difference, which could result in a similar drop in engagement, and will definitely lead to unhappy employees. Or you can absorb the increased costs, threatening your bottom line.
Addressing this problem might seem like a migraine-in-the-making, but there is a way HR departments can reduce insurance costs and increase employee engagement at the same time.
How? With wellness dollars.
What are wellness dollars?
Wellness dollars, sometimes referred to as wellness reimbursements, wellness credits, fitness reimbursements, or fit rewards, are incentives that some insurance companies offer to employers to improve the overall wellbeing of their workforce. These incentives are typically paid out as a reimbursement for health and fitness related expenses, up to a certain amount.
These incentives are the health insurance world’s best-kept secret. For most organizations, not taking advantage of Wellness Dollars amounts to leaving money on the table.
Why Do Insurers Offer Wellness Dollars to Employers?
To some, wellness dollars might seem strangely generous. Why would an insurance company want to reimburse you for helping your employees stay healthy?
It’s important to remember that health insurance providers make more money when healthy people participate in their policies. If you pay your premiums and don’t require any medical care aside from preventative appointments, you are an ideal customer for an insurer. On the flipside, if you require medical care that goes above and beyond your deductible, you cost the insurance company money.
By incentivizing activities known to improve health, like stress-reduction, physical fitness, and nutrition planning, insurers can decrease the need for medical care among their participant pools, therefore increasing their revenue.
What Can You Spend Wellness Dollars On?
Each insurer will have different rules regarding which expenses are covered by their reimbursement incentives. The first step in taking advantage of these programs is gathering as much information as possible.
Common covered expenses include gym memberships, fitness classes, nutrition programs, yoga, and meditation seminars. Some insurers may even allow employers to spend Wellness Dollars on stress-relieving activities like a massage.
Why Should You Have an Employee Wellness Program?
Corporate wellness programs have been proven to increase employee engagement, improve recruiting capabilities, and decrease employee turnover. They also have quantifiable effects on employers’ bottom lines.
In a nutshell, healthier employees are more productive employees. They take fewer sick days, and are able to focus more at work. What would you give to have a more productive workforce?
There are also long-term cost-saving effects of corporate wellness programs. As your employees get healthier, your insurance premiums can actually decrease alongside employees’ risks for expensive problems like diabetes and heart disease.
What’s The Best Way to Spend Wellness Dollars?
Once you know which expenses your insurer will reimburse using Wellness Dollars, it’s time to start researching which programs are best for your office.
There are two main ways you can spend wellness dollars:
You can buy a series of small, individual benefits, like gym memberships, yoga, Zumba, pilates, or other fitness studio passes, nutrition education classes, or meditation programs. This process will require extensive research by a member of the HR department, and leaves you with many points of contact and many receipts to track. These kinds of programs will also typically require your employees to pursue them outside of work hours, which might translate to very low interest and engagement.
Your other option is to choose a comprehensive wellness program from a third party provider. These programs are built for the workplace, and typically involve coaches or other professionals coming to your office, bringing any necessary equipment, and inviting employees to take a short break and participate in a fitness class. Providers will tailor their services to the wants and needs of your workforce and can provide a large variety of services under one umbrella. Because employees don’t have to leave the office to participate, adoption rates are much higher, and a single point of contact makes expense tracking simple.
Don’t leave money on the table. Call up your insurer or broker and ask about Wellness Dollars today, so you can look forward to a healthier workforce and a healthier bottom line. Then when you’re ready to start a workplace wellness program, let us know!
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.