Radio Column

Asa Arkansas's Governor

A Healthy Active Arkansas

10/16/2015

Column Transcript

A few years ago, the folks at Nabholz Construction in Conway noticed that rising health expenses were driving up insurance costs and eating into profits.

This wasn’t good for the health of the company or its employees.

So the executives at Nabholz looked closely at their health insurance to find the areas that were driving the dollars. They were easy to pinpoint. High blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use and obesity were the biggest culprits.

Facing an ever-steady rise in insurance costs, Nabholz came up with a Wellness plan.

First, it established health parameters for its employees, using medically accepted standards and tying those standards to incentive pay.

Then, if an employee met the standards, he or she earned money. Since Nabholz pays 100 percent of its employees’ monthly premiums, this was a real financial incentive for workers.

But how does Nabholz save money with this plan?

Jayme Mayo, the company’s wellness director, says that preventing one heart attack saves about $80,000 in health costs. With some 1,700 employees on the Nabholz Wellness plan, the prevention of three or four heart attacks a year easily pays for the program.

Result: Nabholz saves about $1.1 million a year. And almost 100 percent of its employees on the plan earn the incentive pay.

Other companies are looking to emulate the Nabholz plan, including Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, which just launched its program.

Jayme says the success of the Wellness plan has also helped recruit and retain employees. “This is something that helps set us apart,” she says. “It’s smart business.”

On Wednesday, I was pleased to be part of a coalition that launched the Healthy Active Arkansas plan — which outlines a set of guidelines to help Arkansans take better care of their health.

Jayme Mayo was there, as was my surgeon general, Dr. Greg Bledsoe, and a cross-section of health, business, education and government leaders. The idea is simple: Health affects everything. It affects how we live, do business and grow economically.

An unhealthy Arkansas is an expensive proposition. According to recent data, 40 percent of costs for obesity-related conditions are financed by Medicare and Medicaid. Those are public dollars.

And look at some of the other costs of unhealthy living in Arkansas:

• $2.1 billion in hospital charges for heart disease;

• $57 million in hospital costs for stroke;

• and $3.6 million in costs for hypertension.

All of these expenses can be traced back to how we take care of ourselves. Or don’t.

I’m not one for government mandates. On this important issue, I want this coalition to lead by example. Just the way Nabholz has done.

The leaders at that longstanding Arkansas company took a different approach to healthcare and insurance. They educated their employees, got their buy-in, and improved the health of their company.

As Jayme Mayo said, that’s smart business.