Wellness perk explained to small employers

The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation is offering small companies a perk usually associated with private health insurance — wellness programs for workers.

It’s free to workers and their employers.

At a presentation Tuesday morning at Washington State Community College, BWC regional business consultant Scott St. Clair laid out the concept for a group of about 25 people.

St. Clair said the idea behind the program is that a workforce in improved general health will have fewer injuries, and those who are injured recover more quickly, are injured less severely and are absent less frequently.

The program, called Better You, Better Ohio!, will be delivered by a third-party vendor, Active Health Management. The firm will offer individual health assessments for workers who sign up, and for those who show one or more of a set of health risks, such as tobacco use or high blood pressure, life coaching sessions could be available, St. Clair said.

The bureau, he said, stepped up with the $6 million program to reach companies employing fewer than 50 people in industries with physical risk of injury. Of those companies, he said, 90 percent do not have wellness programs and employ more than half a million workers.

The services offered through the program include health and wellness awareness, education and training, health assessments and biometric screenings, individual health goal and progress profiles for those who sign up on the program website, along with a mobile app and digital coaching.

Workers who sign up for the basic program will receive $75 as a reward for taking the initiative, and those who are identified as having additional health risks will be invited to sign up for advanced program that includes coaching sessions and an additional $50, St. Clair said.

Active Health Management, based in New York, N.Y., is a subsidiary of health insurance giant Aetna. It is a nationwide enterprise that has served 32 million clients, according to information on the company’s website.

St. Clair said all information acquired by Active Health about individual workers is kept confidential and not shared with either the bureau or the employer, although Active Health will share generalized data with the bureau.

In response to a question from the audience, St. Clair said that companies that have multiple business units will have their eligibility determined by their workers compensation bureau accounts — if each unit in a company that has seven divisions, for example, has a separate bureau account, each unit with fewer than 50 employees is eligible.

He said the industries that are eligible for the program are agriculture, auto repair and service; construction; firefighters; health care; manufacturing; police and public safety; public employers; restaurant and food service; transportation and trucking; trash collection; wholesale and retail.

“The injury data is higher in these industries,” he said.

St. Clair said after the session that the bureau views the program as an investment, offering a chance at better health for workers in sectors that might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in wellness programs through their workplace. He also said the bureau hopes ultimately to reduce claims, prevent or reduce the severity of workplace injuries, and by getting injured workers back to work sooner and reducing absenteeism for health problems, reduce costs and improve efficiency for employers.

“We expect to see improved health among workers, a reduction in claims, a decrease in absenteeism and costs to employers,” he said. “Wellness is a component of health and safety for workers. This is an investment we’re making.”

The Tuesday meeting was organized by the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce. President and CEO Carrie Ankrom said the chamber was notified about the program at the end of 2017 and set up the meeting to help the bureau get the word out.

“Absolutely, it’s always a benefit to keep employees healthy and well,” she said. “With this $6 million per year, focused on different business categories, it’s a great initiative to our chamber member businesses to give back to their employees with minimal work by the employers. It’s a way to help employees get motivated to exercise, eat better and perform better on their jobs.”

Information on the program will be available when its website — go.activehealth.com/betteryoubetterohio — goes live on Feb. 1, St. Clair said.

At a glance

Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation wellness program

¯ Being offered to companies with 50 or fewer employees.

¯ Workers must be in specific jobs categories: agriculture, auto repair and service; construction; firefighters; health care; manufacturing; police and public safety; public employers; restaurant and food service; transportation and trucking; trash collection; wholesale and retail.

¯ Program is free to employers and employees.

¯ Information, starting Feb. 1: go.activehealth.com/betteryoubetterohio