A chart that shows how participating in Humana's employee rewards program reduced hospital admissions.

Screenshot courtesy of Humana

Humana said its wellness rewards program has increased employee fitness, improved their diet and reduced their health care costs.

The company’s Go365 program rewards employees with gift cards, fitness devices and discounts if they complete health assessments and exercise.

The Louisville-based insurer said that it examined the impact of the program by tracking 10,000 employees over five years, from July 2011 to June 2016, by using the first two years as a baseline and the last three for analysis.

Employees who participate in the program exercised more, had more “good” cholesterol and reported fewer unhealthy days. Humana said “high-engaged” employees cut their number of unhealthy days by more than in half. About a quarter of the participants were classified as highly engaged.

“High-engaged members had lower health care cost increases than members with low or medium engagement, which is promising considering the aging population and general inflation in the cost of health care,” Humana said. “Higher engagement in Go365 is also linked with fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions.”

In the fifth year of participation, high-engaged employees had 35% fewer emergency room visits and 30% fewer hospital admissions than low-engaged employees, the company said. High-engaged employees also paid an average of $116 less per month in health care than low-engaged employees.

Humana told Insider via email that the $116 “represents the total healthcare cost differential (medical and prescription) between the high-engaged (and) low-engaged members. Specifically, the member portion and the Humana portion. We didn’t separate out the savings for the member as opposed to Humana because we wanted to measure the overall impact on members’ healthcare costs without having the results confounded by differences in plan design e.g. different deductibles/co-pays for members.”

While the high-engaged employees were paying less than low-engaged employees, all employees were paying more in health care than during the baseline period because of health care cost inflation, the study reads.

A portrait of Jeff Reid

Jeff Reid

“So although all associates are generally paying more, high-engaged members had the smallest increase,” the company said.

“Managing health care costs is a priority for employers who strive to offer competitive benefits while fostering a healthier, more productive workforce,” Jeff Reid, senior vice president of Wellness Solutions, said in a news release.

“In summary,” Humana said, “the study shows a link between long-term engagement in Go365 with employee health, productivity and cost savings with more highly engaged employees exhibiting the best results.”