Partnering to save costs, improve health

A partnership between Colony Brands and Monroe Clinic is keeping health care costs under control at a time when companies and employees are paying more for medical services and treatment.

Colony Brands’ Health and Wellness Centers are run in partnership with Monroe Clinic, with one location in Monroe and one in Clinton, Iowa. At these clinics, employees can get on-site health risk assessments for things like body fat, nicotine use, cholesterol, blood sugar and other metrics.

All employees on the company’s health plan can get checked out by Monroe Clinic doctors, and so can their spouses and children over 2 years old.

There’s also a corporate fitness program, a weight loss program and a tobacco cessation program in which employees can get paid to follow program guidelines. A Biggest Loser-type program in the spring rewards participants for losing 5 percent of their starting weight, and a “Road Map to Wellness” incentivizes physical activity by counting steps.

These incentives could take the form of cash, premium reductions or gift certificates for certain Colony Brands products. This model just wrapped up its sixth year, and Tim Wolff, vice president of human resources at Colony Brands, says the results have been remarkable.

“We’re definitely seeing cost reductions,” he said. “Looking at the population which has access to Health and Wellness Centers, we’re keeping increases low, less than standard — it’s working.”

He says the key is to have the health programs and Health and Wellness Centers integrated, so people accessing the centers are being pushed toward healthy activities.

Colony Brands has targeted and maintained a below-3.75 percent trend in escalating health care costs in most of the six years the program has been running, Wolff said, adding this is “below what is standard in the market.”

“The goal was to look at our trend, take the average trend for the past 10 years, and trying to cut that in half,” he said. “We’ve been successful at doing that.”

Wolff says the Health and Wellness Centers are the company’s top-rated employee benefit. Visitors to the clinics fill out patient satisfaction surveys every time they go, and results have hovered near 100 percent since they opened.

“Monroe has been a good partner,” Wolff said. “Neither of us had experience with on-site care before, but we’ve been able to get good results and focus results on wellness.”

He says the two organizations have mutual goals, not only to reduce costs, but really make a marked improvement in people’s health.

“We want to see that the population is improving; we’ve been seeing that as well,” he added. “We know as people’s health improves, we see cost reductions.”

This story appeared in the Wisconsin Technology Council’s recent health report titled “Taking the Pulse: How Quality Healthcare Can Build a Better Bottom Line.” See the full report here:

–By Alex Moe