Workforce Initiative Keeps Costs Down


By Francis Pace Putnam

Several years ago, Birmingham-based City Wholesale, Inc. began a self-insured group healthcare plan. Instead of relying on an insurance carrier, the company set up a program to pay the medical claims of its employees. It was a big step, and the company was looking for ways to keep costs down.

“When you are self-insured, you need a wellness program,” said Donna Crowder, the company’s human resource manager, who eventually turned to Baptist Health System for help.

“They come out and do our health fair each year, and do all sorts of screenings, including cholesterol, blood pressure and bone density,” Crowder said, noting that several employees have discovered health issues for the first time during the screenings. “It also helps us identify areas where our employees need more education.”

Programs like this are a part of Baptist Health System’s Workforce Initiative, providing onsite health screenings and health seminars to educate employees on wellness. The program aims to reduce insurance costs, identify health risks in an organization and help prevent employees from developing major health problems.

“It enables a company to take an active role in addressing healthcare costs,” said Laura Catherine Mason, employer relations specialist for Baptist Health System. The program focuses on addressing health risks within a workforce that, if left untreated, can lead to increased employee absenteeism, lost productivity and increased claims.

“Many times, companies recognize that preventative measures need to be taken in order to keep employees happy and health on the job, but they don’t necessarily have the time to manage the challenge or simply don’t know where to start,” Mason said. “(This program) solves the issue.”
Assessments performed during the onsite screenings may include glucose, cholesterol, body composition, blood pressure and bone density. The cost to the company is about $30 per employee for screening.

“Any additional services provided to the company, such as health-education seminars, on-site physician lectures or health information centers, are underwritten by Baptist Health System as a service to the community,” Mason said.

Employees in the program receive confidential reports of their results, which help them recognize potential health risks. Then, a group profile is presented to the company, summarizing the primary health concerns that exist.

“These reports are trended and show the healthy and unhealthy changes of a workforce between (screenings). For instance, if a workforce has a problem with weight and cardiovascular disease, we would bring additional on-site programs focusing on these issues to the employees at this location,” Mason said.

That is what is happening at City Wholesale.

“This year, we are focusing educational programs on bone density, weight loss and mammograms,” Crowder said.

As employees face challenges at home and work, health sometimes becomes less of a priority.

“This program enables us to bring healthcare to the employees, making it easier to identify and address issues,” Mason said. “The employees are able to gain a better understanding of their overall health and know that the company cares about its workforce.”

Since many employees at City Wholesale have participated in the program more than one time, they have received confidential information mailed to their homes comparing results from year to year.

“They can see if they are making improvements,” Crowder noted.

And the results have been good. While health insurance rates almost everywhere have gone up, City Wholesale’s rates have not.

“We’re doing a good job, and so are our employees,” Crowder said.

Companies in Jefferson, Shelby, Talladega, Walker and surrounding counties with at least 25 employees are eligible to participate in the Workforce Initiative. To learn more, contact Mason at (205) 715-5334 or e-mail

About Princeton: Opened in 1922, Princeton Baptist is the flagship hospital of Baptist Health System. Today, Princeton offers a wide range of medical and surgical specialties including cardiology, surgery, women’s services, diagnostic imaging and emergency care. Licensed for 499 beds, Princeton has more than 400 physicians representing 30 specialties and more than 1,400 employees.

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