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August 2008 return to the table of contents

UnitedHealthcare Is Rolling Out Vital Measures Program

UnitedHealthcare is curently rolling out its Vital Measures program in select markets across the country.

Vital Measures combines a high deductible medical plan with a supplemental plan that provides an immediate cost savings for both employers and employees while more fairly distributing the cost of health care.

The Vital Measures program focuses on four defined health benchmarks: body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, LDL—or so-called “bad”—cholesterol and non-nicotine use. All four of the chosen categories, if unmanaged, may result in dramatic health issues and extensive health costs.

Employers select a high deductible core medical plan from UnitedHealthcare with a supplemental plan from BeniComp Advantage.

Then employees select a high-deductible medical plan and then choose to take a voluntary wellness screening to see if they meet the specific health benchmarks, including for body mass index, cholesterol, blood pressure and non-nicotine use.

For each benchmark met, employees earn a $500 credit off their deductibles. Under a typical plan, the deductible for a healthy single employee can be lowered to $500, down from $2,500, or for a family of four to a deductible of $1,000, down from $5,000.

Because the plans carry high-deductibles, employers can save up to 20 percent on their current plans, lowering the out-of-pocket cost for employers and workers needing health insurance.

Health screenings are performed by qualified health professionals through BeniComp’s regional and national partners. BeniComp coordinates all of the arrangements for the screenings, which will typically be provided at the worksite.

Results are sent directly to the individual’s home, in a confidential manner. An explanation of the results and an outline showing the value of the deductible credits received will be provided.

Screenings are done annually, usually around the open enrollment period, and individuals are given one opportunity to appeal and be re-tested.

Covered spouses must complete a health assessment but do not need to participate in the screening. When there is a family deductible on the UnitedHealthcare plan, all employee rewards are doubled in value.

Key points of the Vital Measures program are:

* Employee participation in the supplemental plan is voluntary — Members who choose to participate in the wellness screening can reduce their out-of-pocket health care expenses by meeting healthy benchmarks.

* Significant savings can be achieved — Employers can expect to realize immediate savings of 12-20% depending on their current health plan expense, while employees can earn significant deductible credits for achieving healthy results.

* The Vital Measures program is a “win-win” for both employers and employees—Provides a sustainable solution for employers looking to balance increasing health care costs with the need to keep benefits competitive and provides employees with a strong financial incentive to improve their health in key measurable areas.

Swiss Village, a retirement community in Indiana, has been using deductible credits linked to health benchmarks for several years. The incentives and a corporate wellness program have encouraged dozens of employees to lose weight, stop smoking and lower their cholesterol, said Margie Dougherty, the retirement community’s human resources manager.

“It is amazing the number of people who have taken this seriously and lost a lot of weight,” said Dougherty. “We have so many people who are motivated.”

One example was Teri Sank. Sank, who oversees recreational activities, had always been relatively fit.

But as she aged, Sank struggled to keep her LDL cholesterol level in an appropriate range. Sank worked with the company’s wellness director to rework her diet, and she eventually pushed her cholesterol count down to a health level and qualified for the deductible credit. Sank points to the financial incentive provided by Vital Measures as the additional motivation needed to improve her diet.

Dougherty said the program has helped reign in health care costs. At one point, in 2004, employees were on average contributing 11.5 percent of their salaries to healthcare costs. Today, the figure is down to under 8.7 percent, representing a total compound savings of 24.8 percent since 2004, according to Dougherty.

“Our healthcare costs are very reasonable now,” Dougherty said.  

Added Cheryl Randolph of UnitedHealthcare: “Vital Measures is an innovative product that rewards consumers for making healthy lifestyle choices. Members who choose to participate in the program are able to reduce their out-of-pocket health care expenses, while employers can expect to realize immediate savings of 12 to 20 percent, depending on their current health plan expenses.

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