In the past five years, Lafarge, the largest diversified supplier of construction materials in the U.S. and Canada, has made huge adjustments to its health and productivity program. Lafarge employs approximately 13,000 individuals that are predominately male, and older, many who have worked there between 20 and 25 years. The organization’s efforts were spotlighted in a recent Employer Insights article.
Philia Swam, director of health benefits and employee insurance for Lafarge, believes that as these workers age and fall into poor health, they may resist health changes since their habits have remained steady throughout their working life. Naturally, these factors create a workforce education and communication challenge.
In developing a program, Lafarge set out to address some of what threatened the viability of their business and their employees’ health:
- Seldom used clinical programs for health management and prevention.
- A 13% increase in medical, dental and pharmacy costs between 2001 and 2006.
- Long-term disability claims more than twice what was expected.
- Many high-cost claims with chronic conditions.
Swam used real claims data strategies to focus on investing in total health management, prevention and safety. The data showed that lack of utilization for preventative services, low compliance rates for maintenance medications, and low participation in disease-management programs were fueling costs.
To make the case, Swam started with the organization’s C-suite, using language that helped them see the health of employees as a management risk, and opportunity that needed to be addressed as any other strategic initiative. Once she achieved management buy-in, Swam and her team designed a program aimed at improving member health. Some tactics included:
- Development of a dedicated cross-functional team.
- Using evidence-based methods to encourage medication compliance.
- Financial incentives to reward program participation and clinical screening.
- On-site health screenings.
Corporate and workforce enthusiasm for health and productivity efforts continue to increase at Lafarge. The bottom-line value of the health investments is demonstrated by a lower disability rate with more employees at work. Results include:
- A medical/pharmacy trend of 4.7 percent compared to 13 percent.
- Claims in excess of $50,000 are at the lowest level in the past five years.
- Improved medication compliance and improved health status, as well as related reduced ER visit rates, hospital admissions, and medical costs.
- Increased disease management participation – a 159% increase from 2006 to 2009.