Author: Frank Jakka, CWP, CPT, Director, Health & Productivity (Marsh & McLennan Agency)
For most employers, your wellness program is closely tied to your employee benefits package. Wellness incentives and initiatives, as well as measures of program effectiveness, are typically guided by your benefits plan and claims information.
Insurance carriers are well aware of the relationship between wellness programs and health plan benefits, with almost all providing some type of complimentary preventive health or wellness program design. Wellness program support can come in the form of health education seminars, biometric screenings, flu shots, or even a technology platform.
While we recommend leveraging these carrier offerings (especially those at no cost), we suggest not getting too married to their programs and keeping a maiden program identity. Before becoming too smitten with your carrier, consider putting their proposal on ice (or I.C.E.):
- Identity: Being single isn’t always easy, but it can have some advantages. Having a wellness program with an overly-prominent association with your carrier can read as a health plan benefit, rather than give you — the employer — credit for offering the program. Most carrier offerings and marketing materials will already be heavily branded with the carrier’s logo and color schemes so it’s important to maintain your independence, own your program, and establish your wellness program brand. When leveraging carrier offerings, we recommend you co-brand or create your own marketing collateral.
- Change: Separating isn’t fun for anyone, but sometimes it’s necessary. While you might be happy with your current carrier, there may be a time when it’s sensible to make a change because of renewal rates, plan design, etc. If your wellness program is too closely aligned with your carrier and a change is made, it will significantly affect many aspects of your wellness program. This can also confuse and detract from the employee experience.
- Eligibility: While you may love your in-laws, most carriers do not like theirs. Carrier programs are generally only available to members on that carrier plan. This means any employee who is not enrolled in the specific carrier plan won’t be allowed to participate in that carrier’s wellness offering. If you offer multiple carrier plans or have employees who do not participate in your organization benefits, this can become a real issue.
While businesses can certainly take advantage of what our carriers provide, be mindful before walking down the aisle. Though there are several factors, employee experience is particularly important. If employees aren’t allowed to participate or see inequity, they will have a negative experience. Similarly, if employees establish a connection to your program, they’ll come to expect a consistent offering, which could backfire should you change carrier programs. Both of these factors can unintentionally undermine your program if you lean too hard on carrier offerings.
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