Employers and insurance carriers alike are urging Americans to make wiser lifestyle choices that directly impact our short- and long-term health. While it’s obviously a good idea to stay active and take advantage of preventive health screenings, some Americans need a little more encouragement.

Health insurance companies have long offered discounts on fitness club memberships, telephonic access to nutritionists and access to monthly wellness tips. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia offers discounts to its members for a wealth of healthy living resources including weight loss programs and stress reduction services such as acupuncture, massage and chiropractic visits.

But some carriers are going further.

Ambetter of Peach State launched My Health Pays™ to its members, which offers reward dollars to those who choose to take charge of their health. The rewards add up quickly with $50 automatically pre-loaded to a rewards card after a member has their annual preventive exam. There’s other opportunities to add to this balance and rewards can be used to help pay for healthcare costs such as monthly premium payments, doctor copays, deductibles and coinsurance.

Carriers also continue to promote healthy weight as their priority initiative and with good reason. John Cawley, a professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University released research this year that provides real insight on how individual states are affected by the health care costs of obesity. In 2015, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin spent over 12 percent of all health care dollars to treat obesity-related issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

The intent behind offering discounts and rewards to be proactive in managing health is clear—healthier members have fewer and lower health insurance claims, which directly affects an employer’s premiums and often the share employees pay.

As an employer, how can you encourage employees to take full advantage of the health insurance benefits and incentives?

Wellness emails and payroll stuffers are traditional methods of communication, but some employers are getting creative and choosing certain weeks to emphasize goal-based behaviors. For example, they’re offering extra time away from work for employees who get their flu shots. A short, scheduled disruption from work is far easier to absorb than an unexpected week off when employees come down with the flu and, of course, there’s no claim to the health plan, which may keep premium hikes at bay.

Call or talk to your PBG representative for more information.