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Published: Summer, 2005; Vol 7, Num 2

Birthday Cards Encourage Use of Wellness Benefits

 

For more than a decade, LIUNA health and welfare funds have been promoting healthy lifestyles among Laborers and their families.  Yet, each fund reports that a surprising number of participants do not use the wellness services that their funds provide.

 

“Because they help avoid illness, these services may be the most important ones offered by our funds,” says LHSFNA Health Promotion Director Mary Jane MacArthur.  “When we avoid illness – or discover it at an early stage so it is easier to treat – we also avoid costly treatments and save money for our funds.  Most important, of course, we keep ourselves healthy and fit, able to work and ready to enjoy our lives with our families and friends.  Every Laborer should know the wellness benefit available through their fund so they can take full advantage.”

 

In a move to stimulate broader use among Laborers and their family members of the wellness benefit available from their health and welfare fund, one fund has started using an annual birthday card as a reminder and encouragement.

 

“We started a year ago last May, so, by now, everyone has received at least one card,”

says Cynthia J. Smith, Director of the Central Laborers Welfare Fund (CLWF) in Jackson, Illinois.  “The response has been great.  We’ve received many calls from members saying they didn’t realize they had the benefit, and we can see its increased use in our claims data.”

 

The CLWF benefit provides $400 annually – without deductibles or co-pays – for a doctor’s visit and tests to check on the participant’s health status.  If additional tests or services are provided that exceed the annual allowance, the plan will pay 80 percent of those costs, up to $750.  The benefit varies in each fund.  In each case, however, the exams and services are designed to catch and address health concerns before they become chronic problems or require hospitalization or other serious and expensive interventions.

 

Previously, CLWF had relied on open enrollment period or newsletter articles to make members aware of the benefit.  “The birthday card seems to work better because it’s personal and arrives annually on each participant’s birthday,” says Smith.  “Everyone looks at a birthday card.  The message isn’t buried in another purpose.”

 

The announcement appears as a three-panel brochure with balloons and a happy birthday wish on the front.  Inside is a wish for a “happy and healthy birthday” and an explanation of the benefit.  It reads, “Please take advantage of this gift…FOR YOUR HEALTH.  Make an appointment with your physician today.”

 

Also included is LHSFNA’s health alert card entitled “Medical Screening and Exam Recommendations for Laborers.”

 

“By including the health alert, we get an added benefit,” says Smith.  “Participants usually take the card to the doctor when they go for their check-ups.  The doctor can see exactly what tests the fund recommends and covers and can order them without having to check with us or worrying about payment.  The system works smoothly for everyone involved.”

 

The success of the birthday card initiative at CLWF has encouraged other funds to look into similar programs.  For help in getting started, contact the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division.