I recently read an article about a company wellness program that consisted primarily of a company health fair. At the health fair, an employee who thought he was otherwise healthy took a Prostate-Specific Antigen test and discovered he had elevated PSA levels. He was encouraged to follow up with his doctor, who discovered he had prostate cancer. He was ultimately cured and his doctor said he probably would have died had it not been for the health fair screening.

That's a great human interest story and certainly lends some encouragement to companies considering instituting some type of wellness program. Of course, wellness programs can also be a pain to implement. Last week I had the opportunity to present a seminar on the legal requirements of wellness programs and identified many important issues, like discrimination and privacy concerns, which would seem to discourage implementation of wellness programs.

However, taking this story at face value, had the employee not been screened and simply developed full prostate cancer, the health plan costs to treat that cancer would likely have been higher than the treatment to cure the employee with the cancer caught early. So there could arguably be some savings there. Plus, over the longer run, statistics seem to support the conclusion that wellness programs decrease overall claims experience for health plans. But they have to be done right and they have to be done legally (so as to avoid the unexpected costs associated with defending them later).

So consider adding a wellness component to your welfare plan. But make sure to consult with your benefit professionals as you build the program so your plan does more good than bad.

For more information, contact Keith R. McMurdy, Partner at Fox Rothschild, at 212.878.7919 or kmcmurdy@foxrothschild.com.

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