By Cindy Donohoe
VP of Benefits, BAE Systems, Inc.

It’s not secret that the U.S. is facing the monumental challenge of skyrocketing healthcare costs. However, these costs could be dramatically reduced if a greater focus was placed on exercising and eating right. According to a report from the 2010 World Economic Forum, “eight risks and behaviors drive 15 chronic conditions that account for over 80 percent of total costs for all chronic illnesses worldwide.” But how do you encourage employees to be proactive about their health while lowering costs?

As the head of benefits for BAE Systems, Inc., a global defense company, this was the challenge I faced in 2009.
BAE Systems, Inc. was born from acquisition—more than 15 over the past ten years. Employees were covered by 30 legacy medical plans, with less than five percent engaging in any wellness program. Clearly, we needed change, and our solution was Health Plus.

Health Plus Plan

• Incentivize – Includes financial incentives to encourage employees to improve lifestyle choices
• Educate – Provides “health coaches” who help employees create personal goals and provide education and support to achieve better health
• Lower Costs – Incorporates a high-deductible medical plan that challenges employees to become smarter healthcare consumers

By 2012, 32,000 employees were transferred to the Health Plus plan. As expected, not everyone was thrilled. But despite some initial resistance, the overall result has been a more engaged and energized workforce. Today, more than 68 percent of those in the Health Plus plan have engaged their health coaches, and I’ve received numerous personal accounts from employees who are experiencing life-changing results.

Each success story represents a milestone on our journey to a culture of health—an environment in which healthy lifestyle choices feel natural—and employees, their spouses and children lead better lives.