SOURCE: Virgin HealthMiles

Virgin HealthMiles

October 19, 2010 10:25 ET

Companies, Workers Can't Control Soaring Healthcare Costs Without Prevention, Says Virgin HealthMiles CEO at 2010 Integrated Care Summit

BOSTON, MA and WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - October 19, 2010) -  Large companies forced to scale back healthcare coverage. Employees left stranded, picking up the difference. The stakes for American business are at an all-time high. Unmanaged, preventable healthcare costs are one of the largest drains on corporate income statements. But, employers have the power to turn the tables. They play a vital role in encouraging healthy behaviors amongst their workforce and must create a workplace culture of prevention to avoid a profitability crisis of epic proportions. 

That's the message delivered to major employers by Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles at the 2010 Integrated Care Summit in Washington, DC on October 15. Virgin HealthMiles is a leading provider of employee health and productivity programs that pay people to get active. More about Boyce's and other experts' perspectives on creating a workplace culture of prevention and insights on employee health trends can be found on Virgin HealthMiles' new blog,

More than 75 percent of today's healthcare costs stem from preventable, chronic diseases that are largely driven by our own personal health behaviors. And while companies pay for employee healthcare coverage at amounts rising more than 10 percent each year, said Boyce, they're also absorbing 70-80 percent of these cost increases. At the same time, employees are incurring higher out-of-pocket costs and larger shares of their premiums. The Kaiser Family Foundation found the average family coverage premium increased 131 percent from 1999-2009, while worker contributions increased 128 percent.

Employers can no longer shoulder this burden alone. With the US median wage at about $43,000 per year, employees can't bear much more, either. The good news? Companies can take action and impact the prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases and their resulting medical and productivity costs by getting employees to make healthy behavior changes.

Boyce said many employers are proactively managing these costs by creating a workplace culture of prevention and getting employees to become more physically active. Yet, more employers could, and should do more. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 94 percent of employers believe they could do a better job in supporting their employees' health improvement efforts. What's more, an April 2010 study by Virgin HealthMiles showed nearly 85 percent of the 1,926 employee respondents believe an employer has a responsibility to take a leadership role in encouraging and promoting wellness in the workplace.  

"Chronic diseases drain our nation's health, our businesses, and our economy. It's imperative we focus on prevention and keeping people healthy so we can avoid the rising demand for costly healthcare services," said Boyce. "Focusing on prevention promotes personal responsibility and links lifestyle choices to good health. It also allows companies to ensure their interests are aligned with those of their employees so they can productively work together to drive down lifestyle-related healthcare costs."

Savvy companies across the country are using innovative, technology-based employee wellness incentive programs to build this culture of prevention, reported Boyce. These programs go beyond traditional wellness programs by motivating entire employee populations to participate through meaningful and affordable incentives. The programs are measurable, and help both companies and workers quantifiably track progress and program impact. And they're manageable, so organizations can integrate various, splintered wellness efforts and incentives structures while aligning incentives for actual performance. When employed, such strategies fuel long-term healthy behavior change and healthcare cost reductions for employees and companies alike.

About Virgin HealthMiles
Virgin HealthMiles provides employee health programs that pay people to get active. The company's Pay-for-Prevention™ approach, based on physical activity and healthy lifestyle change, attracts an average of 40 percent of employees who participate, which helps organizations reduce medical costs and improve employee productivity and satisfaction. The program is offered by employers, government entities, and insurers. Over 120 industry leaders representing more than 500,000 employees across the U.S., including American Diabetes Association, Intuit, MWV, OhioHealth, Ochsner Health System, Protective Life, SunGard, SunTrust, and Timberland have selected Virgin HealthMiles' award-winning program for their employees. The company is a member of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group. For more information, visit

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