IBM paying for more health insurance in wellness initiative

IBM announced recently that it will pay 100 percent of employees' primary care health insurance costs beginning in 2010.

The Armonk, New York-based software services provider has been promoting healthy living since 2004, reports Business Insurance magazine, and now it is eliminating copayment costs for employees covered by self-insured health insurance. About 80 percent of IBM's 115,000 employees are enrolled in self-insured plans, the company says.

Primary care visits with employees' family practitioners, internists, pediatricians or primary osteopaths will be covered 100 percent. Incidental health expenses like lab tests, X-rays and prescription drugs will be partly covered, as per the terms of employees' plans.

IBM made a $79 million investment in employee wellness between 2004 and 2007, Business Insurance notes. Cash rebates are given for "participation in wellness activities" and 100 percent of preventive care costs have been paid for since 2006. The investment has resulted in a $191 million health care savings for IBM; its employees have gotten healthier, too.

Laurel Pickering, director of the New York Business Group on Health, was quoted as saying that IBM should be "commended for ... incentivizing employees to get regular primary care to prevent illness." Sometimes, paying more for employee health insurance in the present can mean decreased costs in the future.

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Posted: November 9, 2009

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