Samaritan Health Services was honored by the Portland Business Journal on Friday, Oct. 11, as Oregon’s Healthiest Employer in the 1500+ employee category. The Journal’s program promotes the value of workplace wellness and recognizes companies who are demonstrating that they place a high value on the health of their workers through innovation and leadership in their benefits and wellness programs. Samaritan topped the list of Oregon employers, outranking several regional and national health care organizations, as well as Fortune 500 high-tech, retail, financial and public utility companies.
“We are developing a new model of integrated, health-focused benefits and wellness programs to demonstrate — starting with ourselves — that by moving more dollars toward creating and protecting good health, we can lower the rate our health care costs rise each year,” said Larry Mullins, president and CEO of Samaritan Health Services. “This allows us to increase our financial stability and invest more in our people and the programs that help us achieve our health care mission.”
At the heart of Samaritan’s winning strategies is a commitment to a work environment that is structured in such a way that it is obvious that the health, performance and presence of each employee are valued. For example, employees are provided with a bank of $300 dollars to spend on gyms, classes and health-related services, on top of $0-cost health plan benefits for preventive care, health coaching, care coordination, nutrition education, tobacco cessation and flu shots. The provision of paid-time-off, which gives employees the flexibility to manage their leave for vacations, holidays and sick days, is an added incentive for staying healthy.
In addition to a health-focused environment, Samaritan has asked employees to share responsibility for company resources and be stewards of those resources. For example, some health plan benefits have a reference price above which the employee has to spend their own money. To qualify for lower premium rates, employees must participate in annual health risk assessments and screenings, and are required to meet certain criteria such as regular doctor visits and cancer screenings.
After one year, the new health plan and integrated wellness benefits and programs have delivered proof that the health care organization is moving in the right direction:
- The overall health of employees improved, with 19% of them moving into lower health risk categories.
- Workerers' compensation costs declined by 5%.
- Health plan claim costs have flat-lined.
“Along the way, we have also proved to ourselves that to create a culture of health, we must have a sustained, open dialogue about our company-wide values and beliefs and align those with our actions,” Mullins concluded. “We must walk the talk.”
Scoring for the national Healthiest Employers program, sponsored in Oregon by the Portland Business Journal, is conducted by wellness professionals and academics. They rate performance in six key areas of workplace wellness: culture and leadership commitment, foundational components, strategic planning, communications and marketing, programming and interventions, and reporting and analysis. The program recognizes small and large companies that proactively shape the health of their employees and make a commitment to impact the health of their workplace and their bottom line.