It pays to be healthy — especially when it comes to the cost of health insurance.
Employers increasingly are offering financial perks and other incentives that encourage their workers to take more control of their health, according to a recent study from the Society for Human Resource Management.
About 21 percent of employers surveyed by the organization are offering a discount off the employees’ share of insurance premiums to workers who complete a health- risk assessment, compared to 11 percent four years ago.
Smoke-free incentives also are becoming increasingly common, with 20 percent of employers offering discounts off insurance premiums to workers who don’t use tobacco products.
Two of the region’s largest employers — Akron General and Summa health systems — are offering financial incentives this year to workers who meet healthy goals.
Akron General offers employees who are eligible for benefits a discount of as much as $480 annually off their share of the health insurance premium if they and their spouses meet health targets.
Employees get a discount just for taking tests to measure body-mass index (BMI), blood pressure, tobacco and nicotine use, cholesterol and blood-sugar levels, regardless of results. Those who meet targets set by Akron General in at least three of the five categories earn the full discount.
The incentives are part of an ongoing employee wellness strategy, which includes an on-site fitness center, discounts to join Akron General’s medically based fitness centers and access to a wellness coach.
Summa has a similar program called Wellness Works that offers employees within its fully owned entities a discount of as much as $20 per pay — or $520 per year — on their share of the health insurance premium. Employees get partial discounts for taking the tests, even if targets aren’t met.
A total of 45 percent of surveyed employers are offering health and lifestyle coaching this year, an increase from 33 percent in 2008. In addition, 35 percent are giving rewards or bonuses for completing a health and wellness program.
“Organizations continue to look for ways to manage costs as the economy slowly improves,” Mark J. Schmit, vice president of research at the Society for Human Resource Management, said in a prepared statement. “Benefits that encourage healthier behavior are a cost-effective way to keep up employee morale, while healthier employees also help decrease health-care costs to employers and employees.”
A local nonprofit medical practice that helps patients with multiple sclerosis is hosting its second Acorn 5K Run/Walk for Multiple Sclerosis on Saturday.
The event will start at 8 a.m. at the Summa Health Center in Green, at 3838 Massillon Road.
The route includes Massillon Road to Green High school on Boettler Road and back.
Funds raised will be used to support the Oak Clinic’s mission to “treat and empower MS patients and families regardless of their ability to pay for that treatment.” Nearly 40 percent of patients last year received partial or complete financial assistance to cover their medical expenses.
The Portage County Health Department is offering several childhood immunization clinics to get students ready to go back to school.
Vaccine clinics will be offered every Tuesday in August from 2 to 5:30 p.m. in the first-floor nursing clinic at the health department, 449 S. Meridian St., Ravenna. Vaccines also are available at the health department from 8 a.m. to noon every Wednesday.
Vaccines are available from 3 to 5 p.m. every third Wednesday at the Kent City Health Department, 325 S. Depeyster St., and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every fourth Tuesday at the Windham Renaissance Family Center, 9005 Wilverne Drive.
The cost is $10 per shot, but no one is turned away for inability to pay.
Medicaid, Buckeye Care Source and United Health insurance plans are accepted.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.