IBM announced last week that it will provide U.S. employees with 100 percent coverage for primary healthcare beginning in 2010. Employees enrolled in IBM plans will receive full coverage throughout the year--no coinsurance or deductible--for in-network primary care with their internist, family practitioner, pediatrician, general practitioner, or primary osteopath.
The company also announced a new wellness incentive for employees to encourage changes in lifestyle to build energy, better health and vitality through all aspects of personal well-being-- emotional, mental and physical. IBM pioneered the concept of healthy living rebates for its employees in 2004 and the new rebate will be one of five $150 cash incentives available to all full-time IBM employees in the U.S.
"This new approach advances IBM's advocacy of wellness, preventative and primary care--the cornerstone of keeping people healthy and productive," said Randy MacDonald, IBM senior vice president, Human Resources. "As a result of our focus on wellness and primary care, IBM employees have become healthier and our costs are rising more slowly."
IBM's expanded support for primary care will lower costs for employees by eliminating co-payment or co-insurance any time that they, or covered family members, receive care from an in-network primary care doctor. It enhances IBM's coverage for preventive or "wellness" visits, such as yearly check-ups, which began in 2006. The new benefit will apply to all IBM-self insured medical plan options, which currently cover about 80 percent of IBM employees in the U.S. Other employees participate in HMOs, which typically provide most, but not all, preventive and primary services at low or no cost after payment of premiums.
Both IBM and its employees have yielded significant savings over the past several years through the company's support for wellness and preventive care. Between 2004 and 2007, IBM invested $79 million in wellness programs, saving about $191 million in health-related costs. IBM's support has also produced a dramatic increase in healthy behavior among its employees, such as physical activity and healthy eating.
A recent IBM telephone survey1 of 1,000 Americans found that one in four people have not received a "wellness" visit within the last year, despite mounting evidence that 40 percent of deaths are due to preventable causes2. The IBM survey concludes that those who see their doctor for routine wellness visits are more informed, are happier with the care they receive, and are more involved in managing their health. Those who have not had a wellness visit within the last five years are less satisfied with the medical care they receive from their primary doctor.
New Healthy Living Rebate
IBM also announced a new Personal Vitality Rebate, which will encourage employees to think about good health and well-being in broader holistic terms--not simply by checking one's weight or watching cholesterol, but also paying attention to good sleep habits, effective stress management and proper nutrition. The rebate will become part of IBM's popular wellness rebate program that rewards employees and their children for exercise, healthy eating and other healthy behaviors. Each rebate is $150 in cash, and employees can chose any two rebates to receive up to $300 in cash per year.
Following the same successful model as IBM's other rebate programs, the Personal Vitality Rebate will use interactive online tools to help employees take steps over 12 weeks to build energy and vitality. The self-paced program will be securely accessed by employees and does not set targets or requirements. Rather, employees can take action on a personalized plan with activities such as monitoring sleep habits or tracking and managing daily activities that boost or drain energy.
Both the 100 percent primary care coverage and new wellness rebate will take effect on January 1, 2010, after IBM's annual benefits enrollment period.
1Actual Causes of Death in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association 2004;291:1238-1245. Ali H. Mokdad, PhD; James S. Marks, MD, MPH; Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc; Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH.
2The IBM Health Care Survey analysis is based on the findings of a phone survey that was conducted by Braun Research among 1,000 adults ages 18 or older from June 25-29, 2009. Respondents comprised a representative sample of insured, underinsured, and uninsured. The total results reported are at the 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of +/-2.5 percent.