At Lincoln Industries, keeping employees healthy is a business strategy, its director of wellness, safety and life enhancement said Friday.
Lincoln Industries, a metal-finishing operation in Lincoln, Neb., with more than 400 employees, has won numerous awards for its wellness programming.
It also has saved money, reducing medical and worker's compensation claims and holding health insurance costs per person to a level significantly lower than average.
Tonya Vyhlidal, who heads the wellness efforts, told a group of Wichita business leaders that traditional health benefit design won't do those things.
She advocates for value-based benefit design, in which employers use data to design health plans that meet the needs of their employees.
Her visit was hosted by the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care, which is sponsoring a series of workshops on value-based benefit design to help area employers learn ways to gain control over health care costs.
Value-based benefit design is empirically based, Vyhlidal said, and tries to keep employees at least as healthy as they currently are.
That might mean not having co-pays for diabetes medicine or cholesterol-lowering drugs, to encourage employees to take needed medication.
Traditional cost-sharing "is not the most effective way of doing business," she said.
Before Lincoln Industries changed its co-pay policies, she said, employees would skip medication because it cut into their consumer-directed health plan account too quickly. And not taking the medicine led to more — and costlier — medical problems.
Her company has biometric screenings twice a year, and employees are asked to fill out a health assessment annually. They talk over the results with a health coach and share their results with their physician.
Participation in each of those actions is rewarded with additional money in employees' health plan account. And each action gives Vyhlidal more aggregate data that can be used in designing health plans.
"Intervention costs more," she said, "but if it's early on, the return is greater."
To illustrate that point, Vyhlidal said Lincoln Industries' wellness plan prevented four heart attacks last year, including one in a man who hadn't seen a doctor for 10 or 15 years and ended up having stents placed in his arteries two days after he did.
"We saved his life... (and) some major money," she said.