Skip to main content

Season 3 | Episode 11

Rewarding Healthy Habits

What motivates you to stay healthy? It’s different for everyone.

 May 16, 2023 | 22 minutes


Some people find that participating in health and wellness programs through their employer or health insurance company really pays off. Samantha Baker from UnitedHealthcare joins our latest episode to talk about how these rewards programs are changing to better fit your life and Jodi Baldel, a participant, shares how they helped her reach personal goals.

Speaker 1: Look at your own lifestyle. Is there something that you want to change? Is there something that you're feeling like you haven't been motivated to do? And start to explore that and look at what might motivate you.

Speaker 2: Welcome back to Until It's Fixed, where we explore new ideas and work underway to make healthcare simpler and more effective for everyone. I'm your host, Callie Chamberlain.

Speaker 3: And I'm Dr. Kenny Poole. [00:00:30] Welcome back everyone. According to Time Magazine, less than a quarter of American adults get the recommended amount of weekly aerobic and muscle strengthening physical activity, and 28% of Americans over 50 are considered inactive.

Speaker 2: And yeah, I mean, getting a fitness routine can be really intimidating. Building healthy habits doesn't happen overnight. It can be really challenging. I don't know if you know this, but studies say that it takes an average of 66 days, which is over two months, for a new behavior to become automatic.

Speaker 3: [00:01:00] Right? So I mean, it's important to really commit and be dedicated to developing those healthy habits. And so today we're gonna focus on one way to get motivated to build these healthy habits, and that's through health and wellness rewards programs. So if you're employed, they're often offered through your employer, but some insurance plans also offer them directly to their members. So programs may offer health premium discounts, cash rewards, redeemable points, or even cryptocurrencies, [00:01:30] deposits into your HSA gym memberships and other incentives.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And the programs that are available are great. They can help you to stop smoking, to manage conditions like diabetes or to lose weight. So there's a lot of incentive to be supported inside of developing these habits through the wellness programs. And for companies. There are benefits to offering these as well. The health and wellness programs can help with employee retention and engagement and of course lead to lower health insurance premiums.

Speaker 3: But all that's [00:02:00] fine, them being used and that's part of the problem is that they're not widely used. So Callie, have you participated in any health and wellness rewards programs?

Speaker 2: Yeah, I have participated. That includes getting a biometric screening every year and also doing a physical checkup and enrolling in programs for stress reduction and mindfulness and tracking my steps. What about you?

Speaker 3: It's not something that I've done in the past and I can't give you a [00:02:30] really great reason as to why. I think I probably fit into the group of folks who probably feel that getting involved in those type of programs are a little bit too complicated or time intensive, whether that's a real or imagined thought. Really, what I've done is just kind of try to establish healthy habits outside of work or what I'm encouraged to do and go from there. And I imagine again, that a lot of people fall into that bucket.

Speaker 2: Yeah. [00:03:00] I am mostly using these programs because of the incentive with my health insurance. So enrolling in these different programs earns me points that adds dollars to my HSA, which supports with some of my medical expenses throughout the year. So I definitely have an incentive to enroll that I maybe otherwise wouldn't be doing if that was not closely associated with participation.

Speaker 3: Yeah, and I think awareness of those benefits would encourage more people to enroll. Yeah. To your point, because [00:03:30] I think people are probably leaving money on the table in that regard. Yeah. But let's learn more about this. So our first guest is Samantha Baker, who's the Chief Consumer Officer for UnitedHealthcare's Commercial Business. Let's hear what she had to say.

Speaker 2: Samantha, it's so great to have you here. Thank you for joining us. To start us off, can you share a little bit more about who you are?

Speaker 4: Absolutely. Well, thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. Samantha Baker, I'm Chief Consumer Officer [00:04:00] for UnitedHealthcare, employer and individual. I've been in healthcare for over 13 years and I'm super excited to talk to you.

Speaker 2: Amazing. What is your perspective on health and wellness rewards programs? And can you just give people a little bit of an overview on what they are?

Speaker 4: Yeah, absolutely. So health and wellness programs are really designed to empower consumers to get engaged in their health. Oftentimes we find programs are anchored in fitness cuz we think that the common [00:04:30] entry point to get engaged in so healthy activity, you know, walking, running, whatever makes you excited and motivated to get started. And so a lot of programs are designed around giving members goals that they need to meet on a daily basis and then rewarding them for meeting those goals. We recognize that everyone's health and wellness journey looks different, and so we are continuing to evolve our offerings so that we're giving more choice and more ways to get involved. [00:05:00] And so there are activity-based goals that are anchored around getting up and getting moving. There are activities that you can do around sleep and healthy sleep behaviors. And then there are one time actions like getting your biometric screening or completing a health survey to better understand what your health priorities are. So we like to really give a lot of different ways to get engaged and then reward them for doing so.

Speaker 2: Oh, that's great. And how do you feel like they're beneficial to participants?

Speaker 4: Overall? I would say it's [00:05:30] about empowering and helping them get activated and engaged in their health and then getting real value for doing so. I also think that there's real value to our employers as well as the programs are designed to help them support healthy behavior with their employees.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that makes sense. What do you think about the program works really well? Or what feedback you've you burden receiving about what really resonates?

Speaker 4: Yeah, you know, I think folks really encouraged by the opportunity to [00:06:00] earn rewards. I think once people get started, it's exciting, it's motivating to get activated. Mm-hmm. I think that people really value having access to these programs. On the other hand, sometimes our biggest challenge is to get people engaged in these programs. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so that's really the big opportunity is we know probably nine out of 10 people have access to some type of wellness and reward program, but we see not everybody engaging in them. And [00:06:30] so our big opportunity is how do we continue to evolve and enhance and really encourage more people to get engaged.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that makes sense. Why do you feel like people might not know about the programs?

Speaker 4: I think that we understand that healthcare is really complex and sometimes people don't always know where to get started and how to get started. And so that's where we're really focused on simplifying our experience, making it as easy to get started and get engaged as [00:07:00] possible. Really meeting members where they are, so giving multiple ways that they can earn. So if fitness is not what you're focused on, let's make sure that we're giving other opportunities for you to get started and engaged. And then really delivering value. So if you're meeting your goals, how are we rewarding you for meeting those goals? I think is also a really important part of, of how we're evolving our offerings to drive better engagement.

Speaker 2: Are there any innovative things that are happening to try to let people know about [00:07:30] what's available?

Speaker 4: Yeah. You know, we spent a ton of time casting ourselves like what can we do to make it better? That's really what drove our UHC rewards program and it really came down to kind of three things for us. One, how do we make the experience simple, meet members where they are. And so we've developed the program to be a part of our mobile app, so no more separate websites or separate mobile apps. Everything's in one place, making it easier to get started. Then we really focused [00:08:00] on continuing to empower, giving more ways to earn and more ways to use rewards depending on what is applicable and relevant to their health journey. And so we really kind of anchored on those three themes as we look to really improve the engagement that we're seeing across these programs.

Speaker 2: That's great. Can you tell us a little bit more about U H C rewards, what it is and what the inspiration was behind starting it?

Speaker 4: Yeah, absolutely. So we really looked at the [00:08:30] existing programs, really spent time listening to the feedback around what's working, where there are some opportunities to improve. So at its core, UHC rewards is focused on creating daily health goals and healthy actions and then rewarding for meeting those goals and completing those healthy actions. And so we are focused on getting members started and engaged in their health, rewarding them for doing so, and then expanding past that as we build that kind of trust [00:09:00] and foundation to make recommendations on more personalized items to their specific health journey. And then I think from a reward perspective, we are really focused on real value. So members can earn real dollars and then members can choose how they wanna use those dollars, whether they wanna put that money into an HSA account to help fund medical expenses, or they can choose to put it on a digital gift card that can be spent pretty much anywhere. So delivering value is also [00:09:30] a really important part of the program.

Speaker 2: Oh, that's so great. Can you tell me a little bit about the impact?

Speaker 4: Absolutely. You know, UHC Rewards just launched, so we're in the beginning stages of our journey, but we've been in the wellness and reward space for quite some time and we've seen really fantastic and meaningful results from some of our prior programs. We've seen that members engaged in these programs have walked almost twice the daily amount of members that aren't engaged in these programs. [00:10:00] We've seen that our participants have walked over 650 billion steps and earned over 80 million in rewards over the course of the program. So we're super excited to build off of the prior success and are really excited.

Speaker 2: That's so great. And I love how easy and accessible it is because when it's available like that, then to your point, being able to just walk a couple more steps and feel encouraged, feels like something easy you can add to your day versus one more thing you [00:10:30] add onto a checklist. So I think that's great.

Speaker 4: Yeah. And we built in gamification, right? Because sometimes part of it is getting into the challenge and you can maybe do a challenge with your coworkers, start doing your walking or activity during your one-on-one meetings, for example. And we see people really lean into the competition or the game of it, which I think just further enhances the experience.

Speaker 2: Yeah. What are some of the trends that are happening in the health and wellness rewards program space?

Speaker 4: I think that as wellness programs [00:11:00] are evolving, it's really kind of broadening outside of wellness and really focus on how are we driving engagement and really helping navigate the healthcare system is really complex. And so how can these programs really help in one, making members aware of all the products and programs that they have available to them, but then helping them get engaged, really helping navigate them across the healthcare system and giving them [00:11:30] relevant recommendations into what actions they should take at the right time and then rewarding them for doing so. So I really think that you'll continue to see these programs evolve past wellness and be focused on overall engagement. And so we're really focused on enhancing our mobile experience and bringing a lot of the capabilities that we have to our mobile apps so that our members can manage their health just like every other aspect of their life. [00:12:00] Consumers and everyone, right, are more connected than ever before. If you're anything like me, you probably manage most of your life from your cell phone, admittedly. So whether that's travel, shopping, banking, we know that people are connected and that's what they're looking for in terms of how they manage their health as well.

Speaker 2: Oh, I love that. That's great. Do you have a goal that you're working on that you would wanna share with the audience?

Speaker 4: Yes. Well, you know, I have two little girls. I have a five-year-old and [00:12:30] a three-year-old, and it's going to be a joint goal, but I would like to improve my sleeping habits and ooh, my youngest is working against me at the moment, <laugh>, but we are going to work on this together and uh, get to a better sleeping pattern soon.

Speaker 2: That is so great. I love that. That's a great goal. And sleep is one of those things that people don't really think about when they think about health and wellness, but is so important. So I love that that's one of your focus areas.

Speaker 4: Yes, absolutely.

Speaker 2: Is there anything you wanna mention about [00:13:00] what you're excited about or anything particular that you're working on? Yeah,

Speaker 4: You know, I am really encouraged about one, the foundation that we're building with UHC rewards, but really that broader kind of vision, which is how do we use these programs as a way to help members understand their benefits and really navigate the health system. So I'm super excited about using engagement and rewards programs as a way to help support consumers in understanding the broader health system and [00:13:30] really helping them get engaged in the right programs at the right time for their specific health needs.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that totally makes sense. That's great. So as we're closing, what is one thing that you want people to know about these programs before we go?

Speaker 4: Well, I hope people walk away with the motivation to get activated and engaged in their health, whether it's in one of these programs or just engaging with the technology that exists within their smartphone or wearable, getting activated is [00:14:00] the first step. And so hopefully people feel motivated to get activated. And then in terms of these programs, I would say I would encourage everyone to look to see if they have access, right? Talk to their employer, look at their benefits. Even Medicare Advantage programs and benefits have similar offerings and take advantage of the programs that are available to you. So make sure leaving this you kind of look to see if you have access.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I love that there's so many ways to be supported. Thank you again [00:14:30] for being with us and sharing so much insight about the programs that are available.

Speaker 4: Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 3: I think she did a really good job giving an overview of these different programs, right? And what their intent is and the value, again, if everybody that it's intended for actually engages in these programs. But that's a challenge, right? I mean, even though you guys had a great discussion [00:15:00] around these things in real life, there's barriers to people really diving in and mm-hmm. <affirmative> being fully engaged in this type of thing. Yeah,

Speaker 2: I like that she shared, she's tracking her sleep because I think that's a part of wellness we don't often think about. And specifically the idea of tracking is super interesting to me because I think about even my phone and the data that's available to me from the steps that I'm taking, my pacing, how aligned my steps are, there's so much information that's available [00:15:30] on our phones. And so even outside of the wellness programs which have different rewards, which is another benefit, I think the opportunity to access that data and just have deeper insight into our overall wellbeing and to use that as a starting point for the changes we wanna make to become healthier is really helpful regardless of whether or not you have access to these programs.

Speaker 3: I'm surprised you have that stuff activated on your phone. I don't have my steps or whatnot activated. So you follow [00:16:00] your steps and your cadence.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I didn't know you could deactivate it, but I'm like an elder millennial, so that's probably why it's just available on my app that has the little heart and I like to track my steps now. Yeah. And make sure that I'm getting like 10, 15,000.

Speaker 3: Really?

Speaker 2: Yeah. Oh yeah. I walk all the time, but I live in New York. I have to walk, you know? Yeah. But it's enjoyable. I like it and it's like a nice little check. And the days that I have 34 steps, you know, I like really have to even that out <laugh>. So [00:16:30] I think having that data is super helpful. You should turn yours on. And I wanna segue us into our next guest, who's Jodi Bald. She's a licensed professional clinical counselor who lives in Huntington Beach, California. And she's participated in her company's health and wellness rewards programs for the past two years. Let's listen into what her experience has been. Thank you so much for being here with us, Jodi. I'm so excited to have this conversation. To start us off, [00:17:00] can you just tell us a little bit about what your experience was with health and fitness growing up and how that might have evolved as an adult?

Speaker 1: So I was always encouraged to be active. My parents rather have us go outside and play, rather than stay in the house. I would roller skate, bike, swim, play hide, and go seek anything we could until the streetlights turned on. And as an adult, I continue to be active, I hike, I walk my dogs and I work out on a regular basis. So I attribute this [00:17:30] to my dad. He always said that staying healthy now would make a difference as I grow older. So I've really taken that to heart.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's incredible. And we know you participate in a health and wellness rewards program through your employer. So can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to participate?

Speaker 1: I came across the health and wellness program and thought, what a great idea that we can by staying active, fit mentally, physically, financially, that we could go ahead and get financial rewards. And I thought that was a [00:18:00] great idea, decided to jump on board and pursue it.

Speaker 2: That's great. And what does it mean to actually use those programs?

Speaker 1: There are different activities, different steps we have to take that would, for each activity that you complete, you get some kind of financial incentive and you can apply those incentives to either gift cards or your HSA or your medical premiums. And with those options, you can choose how you wanna spend that money.

Speaker 2: [00:18:30] That makes sense. And what would you say is the benefit of participating in these programs? Like, what do you personally get out of the experience

Speaker 1: In addition to health wellness? Staying on track, staying accountable. For myself, I also took my financial rewards and I put it towards my medical premiums. And then my husband also finished his financial plan as well. So we were able to combine our monies and put it towards our medical premium. And that's quite a huge significance in amount of savings for us. Yeah. So that's [00:19:00] where I, I chose to put mine.

Speaker 2: What is something that you've learned from participating in these programs?

Speaker 1: A lot of what I've learned is how to better balance my life. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> that life just isn't all work and home. That, you know, there's a lot of self-care that I need to engage in. You know, focusing on my financial wellness as I'm coming closer to being retired, how to better be healthy physically, my food, my emotions. So as I get older that I have a better healthy [00:19:30] lifestyle so I can live into my old age in a more active way.

Speaker 2: That's great. And is there a social component to the rewards programs, like an internal network or support group or things like that?

Speaker 1: There are a lot of communities on health and wellness and fitness and diets, and there's pretty much communities on almost any aspect of wellness that somebody's interested in joining.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's great. And if someone doesn't participate in the health and wellness rewards programs, what would you say to encourage [00:20:00] them?

Speaker 1: I mean, there's just a whole bunch of benefits that are available to people and they a lot of times don't even recognize that that's what's available to them. I would say first of all, you know, look at your own lifestyle. Is there something that you want to change? Is there something that you're feeling like you haven't been motivated to do? And start to explore that and look at what might motivate you. Because like for me, the financial impact was the original motivator, but now that I've maxed out my [00:20:30] reward for this year, I've still use the health and wellness apps because, and now it's just personal accountability and so it keeps my motivation going.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And what is one of your next goals that you're working toward?

Speaker 1: Right now? One of my big goals is my financial stability, meaning focusing more on my retirement plan. Yeah. As I said before, as I'm getting older, I'm just recognizing that that's becoming more important to me.

Speaker 2: Yeah, absolutely. It's a good thing for [00:21:00] all of us to be thinking about. Well, thank you so much for joining us and just giving a little bit more insight into these health and wellness programs. We really appreciate it.

Speaker 1: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Speaker 3: I think Jodi's participation is like the optimal case for these types of programs, you know, in showing that this can set up people for healthier lives going forward, right? And in which case everybody wins again, the [00:21:30] question still remains, how do we get more Jodi's, right? How do we get people to engage in these things in the first place?

Speaker 2: Yeah. And it reminds me of this statistic that we opened with, which is that it might be hard to find or to know that you have access to. And then once you do, people who participate usually have really good outcomes, and it's beyond just the rewards that you're getting. That's obviously a benefit. But I think the ability to feel stronger, to feel healthier, and to feel in control of your wellness is really powerful.

Speaker 3: I think the other thing that's worth mentioning is the [00:22:00] social impact. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, these type of programs do provide an avenue for people to be connected and to compete and to also support one another, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> on this journey towards better health.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's a really important part of the programs, too. For sure. I love that.

Speaker 3: Next week in our bonus episode, we'll be talking with Karen Grastra, a national board certified health and wellness coach, about one small healthy habit you can focus on today to improve your health and wellbeing.

Speaker 2: And that's it for today. So thank you [00:22:30] so much for listening.

Speaker 3: Make sure to follow or subscribe wherever you listen so you can get notified when a new episode is live. Catch you next time.