CHICAGO, IL — Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
“With health care costs continuing to rise significantly each year, today’s HR leaders, and corporate C-level executives are looking at employer-sponsored health care as a losing battle,” said bswift CEO Rich Gallun. “The key tools for winning this battle include wellness, consumerism, and health care reform, both in the public and private sector.”
bswift is a leading provider of benefits administration software and services. The company also built and operates the technology solution for the Utah Health Exchange, a consumer-driven, defined-contribution state health exchange.
The event kicked off with a timely discussion on how the upcoming Supreme Court case and the November elections will shape the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and state and private exchanges. The keynote discussion, “The Impact of Exchanges on Employer-Based Health Care,” was led by Don Garlitz, Executive Director, bswift Exchange Solutions and Brett Graham, Managing Director of Leavitt Partners.
“It’s no surprise that employers are raising the white flag on rising health care costs and moving toward defined contribution,” remarked Garlitz, Executive Director. “Giving employees a piece of money so they can manage how their health care dollars are spent is the future, and exchanges are a great way to facilitate defined contribution.”
Wellness was another hot topic of the day, with Dave Albertson, Editorial Director of Employee Benefit News, moderating a panel discussion including David Olsen from Lennox International, a 13,000 employee manufacturing company based in Richardson, Texas; Tim O’Neil, from Meredith Corporation, a 3,300 employee media company which publishes, among others, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Every Day with Rachael Ray; and Keith Kolodgie from MaineHealth, a New England health care system with over 15,000 employees.
All three benefits leaders shared their companies’ stories and agreed that a successful wellness program must incorporate: 1) a culture of health through effective communication, 2) a variety of ways for people to participate and engage in wellness, and 3) compelling financial incentives.
The wellness panelists recommended that employers leverage technology to assess risk factors and implement incentive or disincentive programs. Kolodgie described MaineHealth’s outcome-based wellness program, in which employees must meet or exceed biometric thresholds – such as maintaining a BMI lower than recognized healthy benchmarks - to earn financial incentives, and identified employee confidentiality as one barrier they had to overcome. “Employees were concerned about the security of their personal health information,” said Kolodgie, “The solution for us was a well-designed file feed between bswift and our wellness vendor. All we (in HR) need to know is the credit amount.”
A debate about “incentives” versus “disincentives” concluded with a consensus that disincentives or “surcharges” – i.e., charging employees more for not participating in the wellness program – were more effective than incentives (or “credits”) in changing behaviors for reluctant employees.
Afternoon breakout sessions provided Summit participants the opportunity to explore health reform and wellness in more depth with industry practitioners, in addition to sessions on consumerism with Seth Cohen of Castlight Health; employee engagement with Bevin Desmond from Morningstar and Sarah Cooke from the Great Place to Work® Institute; employee benefits communications with Lori Dustin from HighRoads; and voluntary benefit exchanges with Andy Crowley and Chris Arcoleo from bswift.
Based in Chicago, bswift offers software and services that streamline benefits, HR and payroll administration for employers and public and private exchanges nationwide. bswift’s state-of-the-art cloud-based technology and outsourcing solutions significantly reduce administrative costs and time-consuming paperwork, making life easier for administrators and millions of consumers who enroll in benefits with bswift. For more information, visit www.bswift.com and check out the bswift blog at www.bswift.com/blog.
- Emma Crowe