Monday, April 16, 2012


IWS Documented News Service


Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau





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The Mercer and Marsh Asia Pacific Total Health and Choice Benefits 2011 Survey of almost 900 employers (of which 87% were multinationals) provides an exclusive insight into how employers are using health and choice to cope with this demanding landscape. This year's survey represents the first time that the intertwined issues of health and choice have been brought together to review the current state of employers' health and wellness programs, what choices they offer and future plans for their programs.


Key findings from the survey include:


81% of companies were concerned about the current and future health of their employees


Health benefits costs as a percentage of payroll are increasing


The top three drivers for promoting health and wellness in their organizations are productivity, performance and talent retention


More than half the respondents are looking to increase their health and wellness programs in the next three years, although most larger organizations are looking to share these costs with employees


Market competitiveness, meeting diverse employee needs and moves toward a total rewards program are the top three reasons for respondents who had implemented a choice program


Only 19% offer some degree of choice. However, 59% of respondents that don't currently offer "choice" have plans to do so within three years


Respondents reported that their choice program had strong or significant impact on meeting diverse employee needs, employer branding and total rewards strategy


Press Release 10 April 2012

Wellness program is the new weapon to combat rising costs of employee healthcare



Asia, 10 April 2012


As the number of unhealthy, high-risk employees continues to rise in Asia Pacific, employers are beginning to feel the impact of corresponding significant increases in their direct and indirect health costs. Across the region, 35% of the 899 companies that participated in a recent Mercer Marsh Benefits survey spent over 6% of their annual payroll on health benefits in 2011, with 10% of those spending in excess of 15%.[1]


Alarmingly, 59% of responding employers expect their health benefits spend to rise in 2012, and senior management is growing increasingly anxious about their employees' health. 81% of companies shared that they are concerned about their employees' health and worry how this may impact their ongoing success and competitiveness.


Organizations have typically focused their efforts on managing rising health benefits costs on direct medical spending, implementing strategies such as co-payments, cost-shifting to employees and switching providers. However, in Mercer Marsh Benefits' experience, these strategies do not address the major drivers of health care costs, and many employers now realize that some of the measures they took in the past were only temporary fixes.


The thought of paying higher and higher premiums, or slashing benefits when employee utilization is increasing, has finally prompted a significant increase in calls from employers in key markets, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and India, seeking help in tackling escalating health benefits costs.


"We've seen a huge spike in requests to help organizations obtain greater value from their benefits spend in 2012, with many finally acknowledging that unhealthy employee behaviors are driving their health benefits costs," said Rosaline Chow Koo, Mercer's Asia Pacific Employee Health and Benefits Leader for Mercer.


Employees in the region are increasingly exposed to major health risk factors including stress, sedentary jobs and lifestyle, insufficient sleep, poor diet, smoking, too much alcohol, not following medical care advice, and not taking any action to reduce or curb behaviors. These behaviors are quickly turning into some of the costliest health problems in the region today. "Our clients are experiencing the real benefits of implementing health and wellness programs, as without such preventative programs in place their employee health profiles continue to deteriorate, particularly among younger employees," observed Ms. Koo.


The good news is that many companies in the region are looking to enhance their health programs in the next two years through an expanded use of health risk assessments (47%), and interventions including stress management (46%) and chronic disease management (43%), as indicated by survey respondents.


Christine Owen, Mercer's Health Consulting Leader, Asia Pacific, said that many employers acknowledge the value of promoting and maintaining the health and wellness of their employee populations. Ms. Owen remarked, "There are clear commercial motives for investing in employee health and wellness including improving productivity and performance, attracting and retaining talent and promoting protection and well-being in the workplace." 60% of respondents in the Mercer and Marsh Asia Pacific Total Health and Choice in Benefits 2011 Survey (of which 87% were multinationals) cited improvements in productivity and performance as one of the top three drivers for promoting health and wellness in their organization. Other top drivers included the attraction and retention of talent (52%) and promoting employee protection and wellbeing (40%).


Unhealthy behaviors result in risk factors that lead to poor health among employees. They drive up health care usage and costs, and drive down productivity and performance. In most organizations, the majority of employees are likely to be reasonably healthy, productive and engaged in their work. "Healthy employees actually account for the smallest portion of your health costs," Ms. Owen remarked. But she went on to caution, "If you do nothing, however, each year a number of your employees will automatically shift from being healthy to unhealthy, so it's actually very important to help these employees stay healthy."


A minority of employees are likely to be unhealthy and disengaged in their work, which impairs their productivity. "Unhealthy employees account for the bulk of your health costs though," Ms. Owen remarked. "From Mercer Marsh Benefits' experience in working with a multitude of clients, generally 20% of the employee population drives 80% of an organization's health care costs. So, it's in an employer's best interest to help these employees improve their health." Indeed, by engaging the whole workplace population an organization is able to foster greater competitiveness, collaboration and peer support among employees – which are all powerful behavior motivators that facilitate healthy change. "It is all about behavior change," said Ms. Owen. "Without individual engagement and sustained action, risk reduction is at best short lived and at worst non existent. This is why we have launched SimpliHealth, which is an innovative health program built around a tried and tested behavior change model."


SimpliHealth is an integrated online workplace health solution that provides an affordable way to embed a culture of health into an organization, driving real risk reduction and health improvement. Through a highly engaging behavior change program, SimpliHealth targets key risk factors leading to poor health. What's more, it's a program that doesn't take a big bite out of HR's time or budget. SimpliHealth offers everything that a traditional Health Risk Assessment offers, and a whole lot more.


Because change is a process not an event, SimpliHealth takes a phased approach to how individuals experience behavior change. SimpliHealth is offered as a one- or two-year program. It uses the latest technology, a refreshing and fun approach, and targeted delivery to lead employees through all the stages to achieve real sustainable health behavior change, at a price any organization can afford:


§  Year 1 – Create a culture of health among employees. Move them from not thinking about their health to considering it, making a decision and taking action around their own lifestyle and behaviors. The highly engaging and personalized program utilizes interactive web apps to deliver: "face your lifestyle" animation, fast facts, risk evaluation, targeted "know your risks" guides, personalized action plans and tool, and support programs to improving your own health indicators.


§  Year 2 – Embed a culture of health through action and maintenance. Interactive lifestyle intervention guides offer second-level assessments, self-help and personalized guidance on the risk factors that are relevant to each employee.



This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.


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