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Lowering Employee Health Care Costs Through the Healthy Lifestyle Incentive Program

Merrill, Ray M. PhD, MPH; Hyatt, Beverly PhD; Aldana, Steven G. PhD; Kinnersley, Dan MPA

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181f54128
Original Article
Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the impact of the Healthy Lifestyle Incentive Program (HLIP), a worksite health program, on lowering prescription drug and medical costs.

Design: Health care cost data for Salt Lake County employees during 2004 through 2008 were linked with HLIP enrollment status. Additional program information was obtained from a cross-sectional survey administered in 2008.

Intervention: The program includes free annual screenings, tailored feedback on screening results, financial incentives for maintaining and modifying certain behaviors, and periodic educational programs and promotions to raise awareness of health topics.

Main Outcome Measures: Frequency and cost of prescription drug and medical claims.

Results: Participation increased from 16% to 23% in men and 34% to 45% in women over the 5-year study period and was associated with a significantly greater level of physical activity and improved general health. Participants were generally satisfied with the HLIP (43% were very satisfied, 51% satisfied, 5% dissatisfied, and 1% very dissatisfied). The primary factors contributing to participation were financial incentives (more so among younger employees), followed by a desire to improve health (more so among older employees). Over the study period, the cost savings in lower prescription drug and medical costs was $3 568 837. For every dollar spent on the HLIP the county saved $3.85.

Conclusion: Financial incentives and then a desire for better health were the primary reasons for participation. The HLIP resulted in substantial health care cost savings for Salt Lake County Government.

In Brief

The objective of this study is to evaluate the impact of the Healthy Lifestyle Incentive Program (HLIP), a worksite health program, on lowering prescription drug and medical costs.

Author Information

Department of Health Science, College of Life Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo (Dr Merrill); Salt Lake Valley Health Department, Salt Lake City (Dr Hyatt and Mr Kinnersley); and WellSteps, Mapleton (Dr Aldana), Utah.

Correspondence: Ray M. Merrill, PhD, MPH, Department of Health Science, College of Life Sciences, Brigham Young University, 229-A Richards Building, Provo, UT 84602 (Ray_Merrill@byu.edu).

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

The authors thank the following individuals for their support in obtaining the data and reviewing the results of this study: Gary Edwards, MS, Executive Director, Salt Lake Valley Health Department; Terri Sory, MPA, Healthy Lifestyles Incentive Program, Manager; and Quinten Christensen, Actuarial Analyst, Public Employees Health Program.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.