Recent news has focused on employers that threaten to fire employees who smoke or are overweight in order to reduce health costs. We asked some of the leaders we have recognized as Best Bosses in the last three years to share their proactive actions and thoughts about controlling health costs.

The following are thoughts from:
Bob Cutler, Founder and CEO, Creative Consumer Concepts
Tom Raffio, President and CEO, Northeast Delta Dental
Pamela E. Davis, President and CEO, Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group
John Heaton, President, Pay Plus Benefits, Inc.

Have you taken proactive steps to use wellness programs to help manage the costs of health insurance?

Bob Cutler: Employees are allotted a monthly “benefit pool” in the amount of up to $222.35, which they may use toward any health benefit including insurance premiums, health club membership, a smoking cessation program or weight loss program. Additionally our new building will have a workout room and a yoga studio to encourage wellness.

Tom Raffio: We have taken proactive steps that may, indirectly, help to manage healthcare costs. We offer a comprehensive wellness program of aerobics, resistance training (1-1 personal training), running, walking and X-C ski programs, yoga, massage, fresh fruit bar, “Change Seminar” to address smoking, weight management and fitness, as well as other wellness seminars. We have not been directly rewarded, by our health insurer, for our proactivity. However, our attendance, spirit and overall company health help us to believe that fostering a wellness culture is worth our investment.

Pamela E. Davis: I haven’t instituted wellness programs. We have a HSA plan with a high deductible and pay back $1800 to employees. We find they actually make different decisions on their medical care with that resource available. Half our staff is on this plan. We find HSAs work very well.

Where do you draw the line between supporting healthy lifestyles for employees and invasive employer policies (i.e., employing only non-smokers and testing employees for tobacco use)?

Bob Cutler: We do not mandate self care, but associates are certainly provided tools that encourage them to take care of themselves.

Tom Raffio: We have a “Non-Smoking” campus. Beyond this our measures are positive, proactive and non-invasive. We believe in the dignity and worth of all of our employees and choose to work with those who are ready to address personal lifestyle issues.

John Heaton: I don’t believe in penalizing employees, I’d rather give them a carrot than a stick. We don’t have a fitness center, but we certainly encourage employees to take time for themselves to exercise We try support employees in many ways, a good example of this is our day care center to make it easier on families.

Pamela E. Davis: We don’t make that distinction. We don’t drug test and honestly we’ve never had a problem. Santa Cruz is a pretty healthy environment, so supporting healthy lifestyles is easy.