Physical Activity Can Affect Healthcare Premiums

Kim Solis | Jun 22, 2020 | minute read

Your hardest working employees are likely to skip sleep, lunch, and workout time to stay on top of their job. But that leads to burnout, and employees who can’t operate at peak performance during the workday. What’s more, these employees are going to get sick and require medical attention, leading to increased medical insurance premiums.

Luckily, new company wellness programs offer healthcare premium discounts for employees engaged in physical activity. It’s a win-win situation: not only do lower premiums ensure access to quality care, the physical activity itself will keep your employees healthier and happier.

And the cost savings aren’t limited to employers: individuals will also reap the benefits.

According to one study, exercise can save you $2,500 a year! And you don’t even have to do much to see that drop in medical costs; you can get there with just thirty minutes of walking, five days a week.

In this article, we’ll discuss how corporate Wellness Program reduce healthcare costs, as well as the benefits that’ll come from increased physical activity.

How Corporate Well-being Programs that Include Physical Activity Reduce Healthcare Costs

Corporate well-being programs will result in employees that are more productive, less stressed, have fewer illnesses, less workplace injuries, and overall be happier. And an even bigger perk: they’ll help your company reduce healthcare costs.

The Science Behind Unhealthy Behaviors and Healthcare Costs

In 2016, Centers for Disease Control published a paper connecting inadequate physical activity with healthcare costs. This is just one of dozens of similar papers. To fully comprehend how powerful these studies are let me show you briefly what they did.

The CDC researchers merged data from the National Health Interview Survey (2001-2010) and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The national health interview survey uses face-to-face interviews to gather health information from individuals all around the United States. The medical expenditure panel survey collects health care cost data from both federal agencies and private insurance companies.

When these two data sets were merged it included information on over 58,000 individuals. The researchers then evaluated the difference in health care costs between different levels of physical activity. Individuals who exercised more than 150 minutes per week spent about $4,500 per year on healthcare costs. Those who got between zero and 150 minutes of exercise a week spent $5,076 per year and those that didn’t exercise at all spent $5,813 per year.

This chart shows the difference in cost according to the different levels of physical activity. Compared to those are active, sedentary adults spend $1,313 more on health care every year.

This study is just one of many that consistently shows that the less active you are the more you spend in healthcare costs. But this study tells us even more about how wellness programs reduce healthcare costs. The study also determined that 11.1% of the total healthcare cost of the United States was directly related to inadequate physical activity.

Let’s do some math. Last year the United States spent $3 trillion on healthcare which means physical inactivity is directly responsible for $333 billion in health care costs ($3 trillion x 11.1%).

If you compare the healthcare cost between smokers and non-smokers the difference is about $2,056 per person per year. The difference between those who are physically active and those who are not is about $1,313 per year. Having high blood pressure costs an additional $733 per year, if you are obese, you’re likely to spend $2,085 more than those who are not obese. And if you have diabetes you’re going to spend $2,151 more than those who are diabetes free.

Your Company Well-being Program and Reduced Healthcare Costs

It all starts with our unhealthy behaviors. Comprehensive wellness programs that follow effective behavior change strategies will improve employee health behaviors and will reduce elevated health risks. These programs will also help employees maintain these healthy behaviors for the rest of their lives. This is a pretty tall order and quite frankly most wellness programs probably fail to produce these results.

This is why many claim that wellness programs are ineffective at reducing healthcare costs and most of these claims are probably correct. About the most difficult thing we as humans can do is to change behaviors. In order for a wellness program to have any effect on healthcare costs it must be successful at helping individuals adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. In an earlier blog I have shown the exact steps wellness programs need to take if they are to be successful at helping employees change behaviors

The Win-Win Situation: Reaping the Health Benefits of Physical Activity

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of activity each week, and for good reason. Now is the time to start your exercise plan, and to encourage you, here are a few benefits you will get from an active lifestyle:

  • You will sleep better - Working out for just twenty to thirty minutes on a daily basis will enable you to increase the amount of quality sleep you get on a nightly basis.

  • General health - Physical activity controls, and even prevents, some risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.

  • Brain health - Physical activity helps maintain brain function in older adults.

  • Weight control - Physical activity raises your metabolism and helps you lose weight more easily, especially when combined with healthy eating.

  • Reduced mortality risk - One study showed that adults who watch more than 4 hours of television a day had a 46% increased risk of death from any cause, and an 80% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Source

  • Increased strength - Regular activity increases your stamina and ability to recover from illness.

  • Mental health - Exercise releases endorphins and reduces stress, .

People of all ages can improve the quality of their lives and reduce the risks of heart disease, hypertension, with ongoing participation in moderate physical activity and exercise. Daily exercise will also enhance one’s mental well-being and health throughout life. Ultimately, physical activity reduces the need for doctor visits and expensive treatment for chronic diseases, meaning you spend less on healthcare.

Let Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Help You Help Your Employees

Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency has the area’s largest and most experienced employee benefits department. And with that comes access to more plans and more options for employers, including some that are exclusive to Leap | Carpenter| Kemps Insurance Agency. Reach out to our knowledgeable agents to see what we can do for you.


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About The Author

As the Employee Benefit’s Department Manager at Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency, I use my 20 years of insurance expertise and background in Human Resources Management to find the best policies for both business owners and their employees.

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