Genesis Bends Curve On Rising Employee Health Costs
Employees succeed with
healthy lifestyle changes
Ross Christopher, a machine repairman at
the Genesis, Illini Campus, has lost
35 pounds over three years. He reduced
his blood pressure, waist circumference
and triglyceride levels.
Dr. Christopher Posey of the Genesis,
East Rusholme Street Emergency
Department used to take 100 units of
insulin daily. Now, he takes none.
His waist size has decreased from
48 to 36 inches.
Sara Birtell, RN, of Genesis Health Group,
Eldridge, found a great lifetime eating
plan. She realized that sugary soft drinks
were a major contributor to her weight
gain and now drinks unsweetened iced
They are among many Genesis
employees who have reduced their risk
for heart disease, stroke and diabetes
through the Genesis Healthy Lifestyles
program and played a role in keeping
their medical plan premiums affordable.
Unlike many employers who have had to
pass rapidly rising insurance premium
costs onto their employees, Genesis
Health System is successfully fighting the
national trend. Employees are sharing the
benefits, both in their wellness and in
their out-of-pocket costs.
Taking a proactive approach has
stabilized the health system’s cost of
providing health care for Genesis
employees and dependents who
participate in health insurance plans.
Employees, in turn, have faced only slight
increases in their health premium costs
over the past four years.
Across the country, employers and their
employees have been hit with annual
percentage increases of double digits in
costs for health insurance. Reducing
benefits or raising employee
contributions are common actions to hold
the line on rising costs.
Here is a look at how Genesis has bucked
the national trend:
• The total cost of health care for each
covered individual in the Genesis Health
System plans has remained essentially flat
for five years with no benefit reductions.
• The difference between expected cost
per covered person and actual cost has
resulted in $20.8 million in savings over
the past four years for Genesis Health
System. Genesis employees have saved
$4.4 million in their personal costs,
compared to average premium increases
across the country.
• The average total cost of each
individual’s health coverage in the
Genesis plan for 2006 was $8,675. By
2010, the expected cost had jumped to
$12,196 for each covered person
nationally (Hewitt 2010 Survey) but the
actual total cost for each covered person
in the Genesis plans was $9,116 per
“Few companies across the country have
had the same experience Genesis has
had with providing health care for
employees over the past few years,’’ said
Steve Johnson, compensation and
benefit director for Genesis. “We’ve bent
that steep upward curve in costs; we’ve
reduced our paid claims; and, have
passed the savings back to employees
who meet wellness initiatives.’’
who meet the
goals of a systemwide
program in 2012
will earn wellness
from $780 to
$1,560 per year in
their share of
health insurance cost.
To earn the discounts, Genesis
employees and covered spouses
voluntarily participate in a no-cost
biometric screening in the fall to
determine their risk for Metabolic
Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome is a
combination of risk factors that puts
individuals at elevated risk for diabetes,
heart disease, stroke and other lifethreatening
The annual biometric screening
determines an employee’s baseline for
waist measurement, blood pressure,
triglycerides, fasting blood sugar and
HDL (good) cholesterol. The blood test
also determines whether an employee is
using tobacco products.
If an employee or covered spouse has
three or more of the five risk factors for
Metabolic Syndrome, or uses tobacco,
they will rescreen in May of 2012. If they
have one less risk factor and are tobaccofree,
they will earn the wellness discount
for their health insurance premiums. If
they have not lowered the number of risk
factors by at least one factor, or stopped
using tobacco, they will pay a higher
health insurance premium.
Employees trying to reduce their risk
factors are not on their own.
They can participate in several programs
to help them achieve their risk-reduction
These programs are provided at no cost
to the employee or their covered spouse.
The programs include Naturally Slim®
Healthy Lifestyles, a 10-week class offered
live or online. Naturally Slim® is a
nationally available program that
discusses weight loss, responsible
nutrition, exercise, sugar intake reduction,
mindful eating and the recognition of true
Weight Watchers® and tobacco cessation
are other options for employees to
reduce their risk factors.
Any covered individual who has less than
three risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome
and tests tobacco-free is automatically
eligible for the wellness discount. Any
individual who declines the screening
receives coverage at the higher premium
The results have been very positive.
Last year, 750 Genesis employees and
spouses participated in the Naturally
Slim® Healthy Lifestyles program.
At the end of 10 weeks, almost
half of the program participants
who started the program with
Metabolic Syndrome (three or
more risk factors present) no
longer had the risk factors.
“Our experience with the
program is that it works and
many of our employees have
been able to reduce their risk of
heart disease, stroke and
diabetes, while also reducing
their weight,” explained Johnson.
“We were so confident with the
benefits of this program that we
made a decision after the pilot
project that was very unusual
these days: We reduced the cost
of health care premiums for
thousands of our employees.’’
Genesis Occupational Health
provides and manages wellness
screening programs for other
employers and their covered
Genesis Health System and
UnitedHealthcare also launched a
new regional health plan in
2011 that includes similar
wellness features. The Heritage
Premier Plan is designed to
promote healthy habits among
employees and help employers
keep health plans affordable.
Genesis employees also have
access to wellness and fitness
classes offered by the Genesis
Wellpower program throughout
the year. Exercise options
and discounts to fitness facilities
are available to employees.
“Genesis employees spend their
careers caring for others. We
want them to take care of
themselves so they are able to
enjoy a longer, more satisfying
life and career,’’ Johnson added.
“The wellness of our employees
will also help Genesis reduce
employee health costs in the