Alegent Health Sharing Rebates With Employees Thanks to Consumer-driven Plan
Release Date: 04/26/2007

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Nearly $700,000 in savings being returned to employees in health care plan

OMAHA, Neb. – The check is in the mail to the more than 5,000 employees of Alegent Health who are participating in the health system’s ground breaking – and money saving – consumer-driven health care plans.

But even more significant than the cost savings achieved through the consumer-driven health care program has been the improvement in the health of participating employees and their families over the past two years, Alegent Health’s leadership said. For example, nearly 400 employees successfully completed smoking cessation classes while 670 participants in weight management programs lost a combined 6,500 pounds.

“When we launched our Next Generation health plans two years ago, we wanted to provide incentives that would reward employees for taking better care of themselves and their families,’’ said Alegent Health CEO Wayne Sensor. “The results we’ve seen have exceeded our expectations in nearly every category – from smoking cessation to weight loss to preventive care to improved management of chronic illnesses. These results should serve as a beacon of hope for all who believe that individuals hold the power to not only improve their own lives, but to change our health care system for the better.’’

Currently, 88 percent of employees who have chosen an Alegent Health benefit plan participate in either a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) or Health Savings Account (HSA), which offer participants flexibility and control over how they spend their health care dollars. The remaining 12 percent are in a Preferred Provider Plan. Alegent Health covers 100 percent of preventive care costs and pays employees to complete electronic health check-ups.

In addition, the company has provided access to free health coaches and deposited special incentives into the health care accounts of employees who have made significant lifestyle changes or taken new steps to manage a chronic illness.

Overall, Sensor said, Alegent Health employees have proven their ability to manage health care spending wisely and have steadily added to the balances in their accounts that can be used for future health care expenses. The current balance in employees’ accounts totals nearly $1.9 million.

The change in spending patterns by employees has resulted in dramatic slowing of claims growth over the past two years, Sensor said. While the health system had budgeted for a 5.8 percent increase in health care costs from 2005 to 2006, the actual increase was just over 1 percent. As a result, Alegent Health is returning nearly $700,000 to plan participants.

Sybil Bendorf, who works in Food and Nutrition at Alegent Health Bergan Mercy Medical Center, said the $100 rebate check she and other employees will receive isn’t the only reward for participating in Alegent Health’s Next Generation health plans. Bendorf took advantage of the health plan’s incentive to join Weight Watchers for free, and has since lost nearly 70 pounds. Joining a weight management program at no cost is just one example of the many health incentives offered by Alegent Health’s health care plans.

“Participating in a consumer-driven plan has given me the push I needed to take charge of my health. Thanks to Weight Watchers classes offered conveniently at work, I’ve shed 69 pounds and can easily walk up the stairs without getting winded. I’m less stressed and was able to stop taking one of my high blood pressure medications. Now I’m confident I’ll be around to watch my grandchildren grow up,” said Bendorf.

Of the three consumer-driven plans Alegent Health has offered, Bendorf selected the HRA, which is funded by the health system and will maintain a balance as long as the employees remain in their jobs. Other plans include a HSA, which allows unused balances to be carried forward even after an employee leaves the company. The third choice is a Preferred Provider Plan.

When the health plans were implemented on January 1, 2006, Alegent Health’s leadership pledged that if employees could achieve a collective improvement in health and slow rapidly rising costs, some of the savings would be returned to them. In designing the plans, Alegent Health officials said they recognized early on that the amount of money spent on preventive care would significantly increase.

“To achieve lasting results, we recognized the need to actively engage employees to take charge of their health through preventive care,’’ said Ted Schwab, chief innovation officer of Alegent Health. “Nationwide, while 2.8 percent of the health care dollar is spent on preventive care, 7 percent of our expenditures went toward preventive care. But we believe this investment in employees’ health is paying off by bettering their lives even as it uses health care dollars more wisely.’’

CEO Sensor said Alegent Health’s consumer-driven health care plans were introduced as part of a broader effort to put patients at the center of the health care equation. This broader initiative involves providing meaningful quality comparisons and introduction of an online tool called My Cost to help all patients understand their out-of-pocket costs for the most common treatments and procedures.

“As we started to envision what consumers would need to gain better control of their own health and medical spending decisions, we quickly realized that access to meaningful quality data and out-of-pocket costs would be critical to the equation,’’ Sensor said. “When consumers truly understand the value of the health care they receive, and when they are empowered to make good decisions, everyone benefits. We believe our experience with consumer-driven care can serve as a model for others and lead to positive changes in the health care system.’’

Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with nine acute care hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,200 physicians on its medical staff and roughly 8,500 employees. Alegent Health is making healthcare better with an exceptional commitment to quality and by providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person consistent with its faith-based mission. Alegent Health continues the health ministry begun by its sponsors, Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems, cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation, home care and behavioral health. For more information about Alegent Health, visit or call 1-800-ALEGENT.