The Problem

Workplace wellness programs have grown significantly in popularity. A recent study showed that some 92% of employers with 200 or more workers offered them in 2009. These programs may range from simple gym subscriptions to robust programs that include healthy lunchboxes, fitness programs, on-site health clubs, work sports teams, and stress therapy sessions.

Employees stand to benefit from weight loss, lowered cholesterol, improved sleep patterns, and reducing reliance on prescription drugs. Healthy behaviors can lead to reduce incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which in turn translates to significant savings in health care expenditures for your company. According to Department of Health, New York, “A 2002 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study noted that companies with physical activity programs for employees have reduced health care costs by 20 percent to 55 percent, reduced short-term sick leave by up to 32 percent and increased productivity by up to 52 percent.”

Medco’s national study in 2009 on benefit management trends revealed that 60% of sponsors indicated that wellness programs were the most important influencers on containing healthcare costs in the next 5 years. In 2008, 65% of organizations sponsored wellness programs. This number had risen to 76% in 2010.

A Case in Point

But the best-designed wellness program in the world isn’t terribly useful if you don’t know how it’s being used. A zakipoint Health client learned using our data analysis that that the company’s workplace wellness program was only offered to the employees of the company and did not extend to spouses. However, the healthcare plans covered both the employees and their spouses. After analyzing and breaking down the healthcare costs of the company using z5 – its data analytics platform, zakipoint Health made an interesting finding:

Women, most prominently in the 45-54 age bands, drove a disproportionate amount of the total spend on healthcare.

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In the case of this particular client –with mostly male employees – their spouses were mostly women, which meant that female spouses in the 45-54 band were driving the lion’s share of healthcare costs. It appeared as a trend that was captured between 2011 and 2013.

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According to the above chart, the spouse health spend is significantly higher and is increasing over the years.

The Solution

Workplace wellness programs are known to benefit the employees, and given that spouses were active users of the plans, our data suggested that wellness programs should be extended to the spouses. This conclusion may be generalizable. According to Dr. Dan Gold, member of the HERO Research Study Committee, in general, spouses typically represent only around 1/5th of covered members but generate almost 1/3rd of the cost. Our data revealed approximately the same percentage within our client company.

What’s more, Dr. Gold also found that when health management programs were extended to spouses, employee participation was double that of companies that didn’t include spouses.

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