Highmark Study Shows Worksite Wellness Programs Slowed Health Care Cost Growth

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A Highmark Inc. study published in the March/April edition of the American Journal of Health Promotion found that health care costs rose at a 15 percent slower rate among wellness participants than a comparison group when employers consistently offered a wellness program to their employees. The four-year study of select Highmark employer group wellness programs showed that the savings per participant was $332, indicating that substantial savings may result for group customers once a worksite wellness program is established.

"This study is significant because it shows that implementing a worksite wellness program at a company can help control overall health care costs," said Donald R. Fischer, M.D., Highmark chief medical officer. "Having hard data from this study proves what we've been telling our group customers all along – keeping employees healthy is not just good for the business, it's also good for the bottom line."

The study evaluated the impact of worksite wellness programs on health care costs and utilization over time by matching approximately 10,000 wellness program participants at 47 Highmark employer groups with a risk-matched comparison group. At a minimum, the employer groups offered Web-based wellness programs from Highmark to their employees consistently for three or more years, which also indicates that even small interventions, like online programs, can help have an impact on health care costs for those that participate.

The study also found that wellness program participants developed a greater tendency to pursue preventive services such as preventive physicals, mammograms and cancer screenings, than their comparison group counterparts, possibly as a result of self-care knowledge obtained from their worksite wellness programs. Preventive care measures often cost employers more in the short term, but can help to save longer-term health care costs.

"The cost of health care is arguably the most talked about subject in America right now. While the recent health care reform legislation took a step to create access for Americans, it does not address cost," said Fischer. "It's incumbent on everyone in the health care system – the insurers, employers and members – to address costs. This study is a shining example of what can be done if we all work together."

About Highmark Inc.

Highmark Inc., based in Pittsburgh, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. Highmark serves 4.7 million members in Pennsylvania and West Virginia through the company's health care benefits business and is one of the largest Blue plans in the nation. Highmark has 20,500 employees across the country. For more than 70 years, Highmark's commitment to the community has consistently been among the company's highest priorities as it strives to positively impact the places where members call home. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

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Donald R. Fischer

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SOURCE Highmark Inc.

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