Stepping Beyond Wellness, Multiemployer and Public Employer Plans Look to Value-Based Health Care


BROOKFIELD, Wis., Nov. 16, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- With an eye on both their employees' health and their bottom line, multiemployer and public employer plans are rapidly embracing a new trend—value-based health care (VBHC). This outcome-driven, consumer-centered approach focuses not on the dollars being spent, but on how the dollars being spent can improve employees' health. It also stresses the importance of keeping healthy employees healthy.

A new survey released by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans finds that in the last year, the number of multiemployer and public employer plans that consider their health and wellness offerings to be a part of a broader VBHC strategy more than doubled from 16% to 37%.

"As employers strive to reduce their health care costs there has been an increasing interest in value-based health care," reported Sally Natchek, Senior Research Director at the International Foundation. "The majority of organizations we surveyed are just beginning to take steps to provide the highest quality of health care for their dollars."

When asked their current status regarding value-based health care, 15% of health care plans report they have just begun VBHC efforts and 23% say they have scattered initiatives. Just 3% state they have achieved a culture of health by integrating and evaluating their programs as part of an advanced VBHC strategy.

Similar to 2010, the number of health plans offering wellness initiatives remains strong at about three in five (63%), with public employers more likely to support these programs. The most prevalent initiatives are health screenings (76%), flu shots (75%), smoking-cessation programs (64%) and health risk assessments (59%). Many also offer fitness or nutrition programs such as weight loss support (34%), wellness competitions (31%) and nutrition counseling (27%).

Half of the health care plans surveyed report the utilization of a disease management program—and those offering wellness initiatives are more than twice as likely to offer these programs. The two most frequently targeted conditions for disease management—diabetes (88%) and heart disease (77%)—are also cited as the conditions having the most impact on productivity and health care costs. Obesity, currently targeted by 43% of organizations, is the top concern that health plans aim to address in the future.

Many organizations do not have strategies in place to educate workers on taking responsibility for their own health. Under half, 44%, make price information on prescription drugs available, 21% provide information on the cost of hospital services and 17% on the cost of physicians services. Even fewer provide information on the quality and safety of hospitals, and the quality of physicians (15% and 12%, respectively).

"Ideally a value-based health care strategy encourages each worker to take primary responsibility for their personal health and to be a wise consumer of health care services. To accomplish this goal, organizations need to focus on educating participants—stepping up both communication and education efforts," explained Natchek.

Organizations report the main barriers to incorporating VHBC are participants' lack of understanding and insufficient time to participate, in combination with the dispersion of their worker populations. Even with these barriers however, close to half of the plans surveyed (45%) are likely or very likely to increase their emphasis on VBHC in the future.

Survey responses were received from 543 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and International Society of Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (ISCEBS) members. The survey is part of an ongoing, multi-step initiative to provide practical ways for multiemployer and public employer plans to integrate VBHC strategies. The initiative is funded in part by a grant from Pfizer Inc. For more information, visit

The full report, Value-Based Health Care Second Annual Benchmarking Survey: Multiemployer and Public Employer Plans, is available free to International Foundation and ISCEBS members. Nonmembers can purchase the e-book for $50, a price that includes the 2010 survey as well as focus groups findings and an upcoming white paper. Visit

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is a non-profit organization, dedicated to being a leading objective and independent global source of employee benefits, compensation, and financial literacy education and information. For additional information, visit

Pfizer applies its science and global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. Consistent with Pfizer's responsibility as the world's leading biopharmaceutical company, Pfizer also collaborates with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, Pfizer has worked to make a difference for all who rely on the company. For additional information, visit

*Note—A complimentary copy of the full report is available to credentialed media upon request.

Brenda Hofmann
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
(262) 373-7756

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