Hollister, MO…As most employers battle increasing health insurance costs for their employees, one Branson organization is enjoying a substantial reduction in the costs for these benefits. Connell Insurance may sell health insurance coverages, but they also purchase such coverages like any other employer – and the costs were increasing.

In 2008, Connell Insurance recognized that a 26% increase in employee health care costs, up from 7% the previous year, was probably not going to decrease on its own. “We realized that we needed to take a proactive rather than a reactive approach,” stated Connell president, Tim Connell, “to control renewal increases and help our employees realize a healthy lifestyle at the same time.”

In 2010, Connell was paying an annual premium over $150,000, but in 2012 the premium has been lowered to just over $101,000. The drastic reduction in health care costs is partially because Connell increased the deductible from $3500 to $10,000 and incorporated a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). This type of account reduces the monthly premium by increasing the employee deductible levels. If the employee exceeds the deductible amount, then the employer and employee share in the residual costs. The combination results in savings for the employer while funding the HRA to bridge the gap between the higher deductible and the expenditure amount for employee’s insurance coverage.

Additionally, although Connell Insurance is not large enough to warrant a Wellness Officer, their Wellness Team combines a wellness program with measurement efforts that effectively gauge the program’s merit. Connell’s wellness program offers opportunities to help improve employee health, reduce absenteeism, and improve morale and productivity while reducing health care costs.

Connell’s wellness program, which began in 2008, included a Step Game in addition to Health Risk Assessments and Lunch & Learns. The next year a “Couch to 5K” training program was added, with the first 5K Run/Walk a few months later. Connell has also adopted a smoke-free workplace to further encourage better health. In 2012, the wellness program was ramped up with the hiring of BigTime Results in Springfield to handle the assessments, perform fitness tests, handle one-on-one consultations, and offer yoga and fitness classes each week.

According to the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), it generally takes about three years to see a return of typically $2-$3 saved for every $1 invested in a wellness program. That definitely is the case for Connell because in 2011, costs were improved to a mere 6% increase, down from a 23% increase the previous year, and in 2012, the overall health care costs actually decreased by 1%.

While Connell recognizes that the wellness program is not the sole reason for the reduction in health costs, they are confident that it plays a significant role, coupled with a critical review of health coverages and optional factors such as the HRA.

For more information, visit or or call (417) 334-2000.

Connell Insurance, based in Hollister, MO, is one of the largest insurance agencies serving southwestern Missouri. An independent insurance agency, Connell specializes in both commercial and personal lines of insurance, representing numerous insurance companies.

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