Three-year Humana study shows wellness program engagement lowers health claims costs

HumanaVitality study

Humana has released results of a three-year study of HumanaVitality users to show how employees engaged with the health incentive program had fewer unscheduled absences, as well as lower overall health claims costs and fewer visits to the hospital and emergency room. The HumanaVitality Impact Study has tracked the productivity and healthcare usage and claims of more than 8,000 Humana employees since the program’s launch in 2011.

HumanaVitality helps members create “personal paths to health,” and then awards points both for steps taken toward better health and measurable milestones achieved. Once won, these points can be redeemed for rewards from major retailers, fitness equipment and personal electronics, or be used for charitable donations.

“Employers are still looking for ways to validate the success of their wellness programs,” Beth Bierbower, President of Group Segment for Humana, said in a statement. “Through multi-year study results, HumanaVitality has proven to be an effective investment in building a healthier and more productive workforce.”

The study has found that engaged members in HumanaVitality, on average, had six fewer hours of unscheduled absences compared to unengaged members, who averaged 23 hours per year. As compared to the baseline, engaged members’ health claims costs decreased six percent in Year 1 and 10 percent by Year 3, while unengaged members experienced a 17 percent increase by Year 3.

Also, engaged members without chronic health conditions were more likely to use healthcare for preventive care, such as routine check-ups/physicals and screenings. In contrast, unengaged members had 56 percent more emergency room visits and 37 percent more hospital visits.

Further, the analysis found the percentage of engaged members in a low-risk range for chronic conditions increased by 24.4 percent over the three-year study compared to only 14 percent for unengaged members. Among all types of medical claims, the biggest difference in healthcare spending between engaged and unengaged employees was seen in those with “lifestyle chronic conditions,” which — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — are responsible for the bulk of healthcare costs in the United States.

The study was conducted by Humana actuaries for the following time period: Baseline Year (July 2010 – June 2011), Year 1 of the HumanaVitality program (July 2011 – June 2012) , Year 2 of the HumanaVitality program (July 2012 – June 2013) and Year 3 of the HumanaVitality program (July 2013 – June 2014). Only Humana employees were included in the study, though individuals with high-cost claims (more than $ 100,000) were removed from the sample. The final sample size was 8,015 employees in the Year 3 analysis.