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Newly Published Study Demonstrates Return on Investment for Employee Wellness Program

Highmark Inc.'s rigorous study methodology sheds new light on ways to

address employer health care costs

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Study findings published today in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) show that employers can save $1.65 in health care expenses for every dollar spent on a comprehensive employee wellness program. Pittsburgh-based health insurer Highmark Inc. conducted a study of its own corporate wellness program, which saved $1.3 million during a four-year period.

Researchers used an analytical approach that examined the health care costs reflected in the medical claims of employees who participated in wellness programs, as well as nonparticipants with comparable health risks.

"This study used a rigorous methodology to examine the long-term impact of Highmark's health promotion program on health care expenditures," said Ron Goetzel, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies for the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, a vice president at Thomson Healthcare and a contributing researcher to the study. "Participants and nonparticipants in the program were carefully matched to one another to minimize the effect of selection bias, a common threat to the validity of worksite health promotion studies involving workers in real-world settings."

Reduced inpatient costs yielded the highest return on investment, partially due to increased use of screenings and medications among employees.

"There is a common misconception that these studies represent people who are already healthy and motivated. It's simply not the case," said Brian Day, Ed.D., director of advanced analytics at Highmark. "One of the most significant findings showed that those involved in wellness activities were not healthier at the start of the program."

As employers begin to recognize the crucial role they can play in improving the health and well-being of their workers, they are looking for evidence that programs will benefit their employees and their health care expenses. Highmark conducted this study to provide the scientifically sound evaluation employers are seeking and encourage the adoption of worksite wellness programs similar to its own.

"This study is impactful because we illustrate the real savings of a comprehensive wellness program and show that it not only helps to improve the health of employees, but also slows the rate of health care cost increases while generating a positive return on an employer's investment in the program," Day added.

At Highmark, employee wellness is a primary component of the company's culture. Employees are encouraged to participate in a variety of wellness and condition management programs and regularly attend onsite fitness center facilities. Highmark also promotes employee participation in Lifestyle Returns, a program that provides incentives for members to engage in healthier living and receive preventive care.

Having seen successful results for its own employee population, Highmark will now look to partner with businesses that provide Highmark health care coverage and wellness programs to implement similar evaluations.

The study and its complete results can be found in the February 2008 edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

About Highmark Inc.

As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit

SOURCE Highmark Inc.
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