Between 2003 and 2006, Standard Textile - a company that manufactures textiles and apparel for a variety of industries, including health care and hospitality - watched its benefits costs per employee jump by 60%. That got the attention of the CEO, and the company embarked on a more aggressive health and wellness journey.
"It wasn't that the company hadn't been focused on health and wellness, just not at the level we are today," says Scott Silver, vice president of human resources with Standard Textile, which has about 1,000 employees in the United States.
When Silver joined the company in 2006, he was asked to create a comprehensive wellness strategy. Costs were obviously an issue, but so was productivity. The average tenure for Standard Textile employees is 10 years, and Silver says many people have been with the company for 30 or 40 years.
"As all of us age, health becomes more fragile, and we have to pay attention to it," he says. "So there was a two-fold purpose to this: one was to take care of our people and improve productivity, and the other was a business issue because we had that 60% increase in cost."
The cornerstone of Standard Textile's wellness program is a comprehensive, annual blood screening made available to all employees and spouses. It's a fasting blood test administered by a third-party provider, IHS. Employees fill out a medical history and based on their age and gender, the lab test is interpreted "specifically and uniquely for that individual, which really gives us quite an advantage of helping employees have a goal to hit that's unique to them, that's achievable," says Joe O'Brien, CEO of IHS. "But, more times than not, if they are out of control on something, they may have to see their physician to get on medication, or they might work on diet and exercise."
O'Brien maintains the full-panel blood test gives employees a more accurate picture of their overall health. "Many companies do finger sticks, or maybe even a shorter panel of a blood draw," he notes. "The problem with finger sticks is they are not medically sound. You're not going to take that to your physician."
At Standard Textile, employees and their spouses are incentivized to take the blood test and are then eligible for further discounts on their health insurance premiums based on the test's results, referred to as a scorecard. The scorecard gives employees a points total and, just like in the game of golf, the lower your score, the better you're doing. If employees score anywhere from 0 to minus 20, or if they've improved their score by 60% or more from the previous year, then they're eligible for a $500 discount on their premium. Annual doctor visits are also encouraged, with employees and spouses eligible for a $150 premium discount simply for seeing their doctors.
All told, the incentives can reach $2,300 annually if both the employee and spouse are participating. "That's a lot of money on the table," says Silver.
The aggregate results help the company make plan design decisions. "We discounted drugs around cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes when we went through the HIS screening because we saw those were prevalent within our population and we wanted to make sure people who needed those medications were taking them," Silver explains.
Since implementing the blood test program three years ago, Standard Textile has seen a 27% improvement in the number of employees with high blood pressure and a 37% improvement in the incidence of high cholesterol among employees. The number of employees reporting healthier BMIs has also increased.
Silver feels strongly that even though Standard Textile has an older population - the average age of members in its health plan is 48 - the company is able to compete effectively because it has worked hard to engage employees in their own health and wellness.
The company created a video featuring 10 employee success stories that it now gives out to employees and spouses. "We've had one person tell our CEO that her doctor told her going through the biometric screening process had saved her life," says Silver. "Some people in our facility have shed 50 to 100 pounds. Those kinds of stories really make a difference."
And while wellness is not built in to Standard Textile's mission statement, it is something the company's CEO feels strongly about. He talks about it at every meeting, says Silver, and coined the wellness program's tagline, which is "Wellness matters."
This year, the company is focusing on exercise and nutrition. It's contracted with a third-party health company, TriHealth Medical, to take a registered dietitian to all of its locations across the country to meet with employees. "This is another way to further educate and engage people in the kinds of things that can make a difference to their personal health," says Silver.
Incentives at a glance
Standard Textile employees and spouses are eligible for the following discounts on their health insurance premiums:
$500 x 2 (for employee and spouse) for scoring well on the IHS scorecard = $1,000
$150 x 2 (for employee and spouse) for annual doctor visit = $300
$500 x 2 (for employee and spouse) for being tobacco-free = $1,000
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