Wellness Programs Are Worthy Investments For CUs

Programs may decrease operating expenses.

January 8, 2015
650Wellness programs don’t just lower credit unions’ health-care costs—they also decrease operating expenses in the form of happier, more productive, and more loyal employees, proponents contend.
“We’re aware that by having wellness programs in place, we’ll save money in the long run,” says Susie Smith, senior vice president of human resources at $587 million asset Smart Financial Credit Union in Houston.
Wellness programs require upfront investment to succeed, and credit unions don’t realize immediate cost savings, cautions a recent CUNA Human Resource/Training & Development Council white paper, “A Deeper Dive Into Wellness Programs.”
But the programs do yield longterm, bottom-line results, according to Sarah Gentry, senior informatics consultant at Cigna Healthcare of Arizona. Research indicates organizations generate upwards of $3 in health-care cost reductions for every dollar spent on wellness.
300Savings spring from fewer and less expensive claims for healthcare, employee assistance program contacts, and prescription drugs, mainly because some employees no longer require maintenance medications. Also, employees use less sick time, and many organizations experience significant reductions in turnover.
Roughly 15% of credit unions with assets of $5 million or more have programs that encourage good health practices, up from 13% in 2012, according to CUNA’s 2014- 2015 Staff Benefits Report.
The likelihood of having such a program increases with asset size, from less than 5% among credit unions with less than $50 million in assets to more than 80% of those with assets of $1 billion or more.
Credit unions using wellness programs estimate about one-half of employees take part in one or more of the activities. Nearly 60% of participating credit unions offer incentives to employees. Most offer prizes and drawings, but 33% offer cash payments and 26% reduce employee contributions for healthcare premiums.