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Miller Canfield Offers Prescription for Reducing Healthcare Costs

March 21, 2005

There’s no magic pill to relieve the pain of soaring healthcare costs. But employers can lessen the hurt and take the lead in promoting healthier lifestyles among work colleagues by creating a health promotion program, says the law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. – the 2004 Healthy Workplace Platinum award winner named by the Michigan Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports.

"Like many companies, Miller Canfield went through shock, disbelief, and despair at the recent double-digit hike in the price of health benefits," said William J. Parsons , Miller Canfield’s director of administrative and human resources. "While experts debate the causes, studies have shown that physically fit employees incur less healthcare costs. We started a comprehensive wellness program in 2003 and have seen encouraging results."

According to a study by the Michigan Fitness Foundation in 2002, problems caused by physical inactivity resulted in workers losing, on average, 20 days of work to absence, short-term disability, or limited functioning each year. These hours of lost productivity are significant in the professional services industry, especially for a law firm such as Miller Canfield. Combined with medical care and workers’ compensation costs, Michigan firms pay a total $8.9 billion in direct and indirect costs – money that could have been invested by companies to create new, competitive products or additional jobs in Michigan.

A health promotion program can control costs by focusing on three basic areas: prevention, early detection, and careful implementation and management. Miller Canfield suggests the following when building a program.


  • Encourage health and fitness – Incentivize employees to participate in health and fitness assessments. This will identify problems and reduce health risks before high cost problems develop.
  • Get health clubs in the area to offer corporate discounts – add monetary incentives to persuade employees to join and use the clubs.
  • Sponsor group activities – Organize walking and running clubs; sponsor in-house sports teams; rent facilities or designate an area of your workplace where employees can participate in aerobic classes, yoga, or other activities.
  • Bring in the experts – Make use of community resources or a local hospital for health screenings and programs on a variety of topics. Make sure they provide follow up counseling and retesting after six months or a year.
  • Reward participants – Offer incentives to encourage employees to participate in health and fitness programs: discounted tickets to entertainment, special t-shirts, or immediate cash rewards.
  • Early Detection

  • Promote physical exams – Make sure your health plan covers the cost of an annual, comprehensive physical that includes appropriate screening and tests to detect cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other serious problems.
  • Implementation & Management

  • Market your program – The ultimate success of your program may depend on how well it’s marketed to your employees. Enlist managers—from the CEO down—to kick off your program and champion the cause.
  • Inform and educate – Include information about timely health and fitness topics in your company’s hardcopy or electronic in-house communications.
  • Time your strategies – You can’t maintain a program at high intensity year ‘round, so time health and fitness campaigns at intervals throughout the year.
  • Celebrate success – Publicize your employees’ success stories, and heap on the praise.
  • Check out all the options and monitor the trends – Traditional health insurance, self-funded plans, and managed care should all be considered, and every plan should have a provision for case management—a tool for ensuring better care while holding down costs. Keep up with the latest developments. Review the defined contribution plan approach commonly called Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHPs); data will be developed to prove whether or not this new approach will bring cost savings.
  • As part of its health program called MCFit, Miller Canfield offers participating employees a credit on the cost of health care; free, convenient health screenings at its offices during work hours; a $100 yearly reimbursement for health club memberships and the cost of new exercise equipment; weight loss and stop smoking programs; free in-network or reduced cost out-of-network annual physicals; and exercise points for exclusive Miller Canfield clothing and gifts. Today, over 80 percent of the firm’s employees participate, and the firm has seen overall reductions in each of the five risk categories – poor fitness, obesity, blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and smoking – by an average of 30%.

    The 340-attorney law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. was established in Detroit in 1852 and has offices in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Howell, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Monroe, and Troy, Michigan. Other offices are located in New York City, Pensacola, Florida, Washington, D.C., Windsor, Ontario, and in Gdynia, Katowice, and Warsaw, Poland.