Investing In Health And Wellness Programs Means Big Savings On Corporate Insurance

Life insurance and health insurance companies want you to live a long healthy life. But are their motives altogether altruistic? Insurance companies are in the business of maximizing profits, and it stands to reason that the healthier you are and the longer you live, the more money they make. The same goes for the company or corporation you work for. They want you healthy and productive, not sick at home.

Hence, the explosion of interest in health and wellness programs, and the third parties that provide them. If your company is in the market for a wellness program, your choices are wider than ever before. If your priority is to save on insurance costs, read on for more information on how one company did it.

Health experts point out there are many measurable benefits to living a healthy life, for the individual, the family, and society at large. Reduced insurance rates are definitely one of the financial rewards those in good health can reap. Corporations are shopping for wellness programs that help their employees become more proactive in looking after their health; in turn, corporation are seeing significant decreases in costs associated with unhealthy employees. But insurance people can tell the full story on the cost of poor health.

Ask a Pro

Russ Smart, MBA, is the owner of one of Canada’s first online insurance brokers. He’s been in the insurance business for 12 years and took the company “virtual” five years ago. These can be cheaper, customized to meet employee needs, and readily available for corporate clients at the click of a mouse.

Russ said there are three guaranteed ways to reduce life and health insurance rates. “The first,” Russ says with a teasing tone in his voice, “is to choose your grandparents and parents well…The second way to reduce the cost of insurance is, don’t smoke.” And the third way? “Make the numbers work for you...”

What’s he saying here? Win the lottery? Clean up at the blackjack table?)

“...the numbers in what are called ‘measurable indicators,’ like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels,” says Russ. “Think about it. Anyone can claim they’re taking nutritional supplements and exercising. Some people will fib about smoking. Even honest people who really are doing all those healthy things may change their habits for the worse. So insurance companies can’t base their rates on that kind of information. They have to have proof of a healthy lifestyle based on the numbers–the test results.” Russ explains how insurance rates are calculated in more detail.

Be Healthy, Pay Less

Nearly all Canadian health and life insurance companies offer substantial savings to people without serious pre-existing health conditions whose measurable indicators are within the healthy range and whose parents did not die of an illness before the age of 60. Using a kind of point system, insurance companies also factor in the applicant’s age, detailed personal health history and lifestyle, and family health history when calculating insurance premiums. Obviously, there is nothing we can do to change our family’s health history, but there is much we can do to shape our own future health profile by improving our “measurable indicators.”

Underwriting Factors

Bringing and keeping cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight into healthy ranges and being a non-smoker are four major ways everyone can qualify for better rates. Other common considerations, called “underwriting factors” in the world of insurance, include asthma, alcohol consumption, and involvement in extreme sports.

Insurance companies assess an applicant’s combined underwriting factors to determine rates. For instance, normal adult blood pressure is generally identified as 130 over 85. Blood pressure levels at or slightly above 140 over 90 are regarded as low-grade hypertension. This factor alone will usually not raise your insurance costs but can if combined with other underwriting factors, such as high cholesterol or obesity. If your blood pressure is dangerously high, however, this factor alone may raise your rates. On the other hand, if you have successfully lowered your levels, your past higher numbers should not affect your most recent insurance costs.

Online Prevention Invention

Here’s how one employer–an insurance company–has taken steps to assess and improve the health and fitness of employees while improving the company’s fiscal health. Employees voluntarily complete a confidential online Health Risk Assessment (HRA) questionnaire. After assessing the individual employee’s health risks, lifestyle changes that can significantly improve health are identified. Participating employees can meet with a health professional to interpret results and outline health-promoting goals. The employer receives a combined summary of their employees’ (anonymous) health risks and an overall assessment of employee willingness to change. Targeted wellness programs are designed for use within the organization.

Healthy Pay-Off

Progressive employers know that healthy employees make healthy companies. Here are a few of the results of this wellness program. Four key employee health concerns were identified: stress, eating, exercise, and weight.