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Where the Ride Takes Us: Slashing Employee Healthcare Costs
In honor of National Bike Month, we’re spotlighting how bicycles are tools for personal empowerment, social justice and community development with our “Where the Ride Takes Us” web series. Today we hear from Seth E. Nesselhuf, the Advocacy, Community Service and Environment program Director at QBP, about their Health Reward program, which has lowered health care costs for its employees.
At Quality Bicycle Products, we pride ourselves on being a company made up of committed cyclists.
As the largest supplier of bike parts in the United States, with more than 650 employees, it’s important that we know our product in and out through constant testing. We have everything from recreational cyclists who ride around the block with their kids to hardcore snow racers who ride hundreds of miles in the frigid forests of upper Minnesota. But, as a company, we put in the most mileage simply biking to work and back.
With three distribution centers in three different states, it is no easy task to get employees to bike to work, especially considering the distances a great deal of employees live from QBP. But by adding bike infrastructure, encouraging ridership through financial incentives and competition, and cultivating bike culture, we’ve successfully created one of the best corporate commuting programs in the U.S.
In fact, on a good day, more than 30 percent of our employees will bike to work, with more than 370,000 miles biked in 2012. That’s 10 times the average ridership rate for Minneapolis commuters.
We’ve increased our ridership through hiring a part time Commuter Advocate, and by providing dedicated lockers, showers, indoor bike parking, and an employee bike shop. Additionally, we host bike mechanic classes, provide breakfast on our monthly bike to work day, and give QBPers $3 in QBP credit every day they bike in. In order to keep track of these incentives, we created the website www.greenlightride.com. The employee simply has to log in and add their mileage everyday they bike to work. An added bonus to using GreenlightRide.com is that it encourages even more biking through inter-work competition.
For years these actions have increased ridership and cultivated culture. What we didn’t expect were the financial savings we would experience as a company and individuals through reduced health insurance claims. Last year HealthPartners, our health insurance carrier, ran the numbers for us and using the top 100 commuters that bike over 10 miles per week as a sample, they made an amazing discovery.
The $45,000 we dedicate to our commuting program annually realizes a huge economic return for QBP and its employees. Between 2009-2011 average national corporate per member per month (PMPM) health care costs had risen nearly 25 percent, while QBP PMPM had actually decreased 4.4 percent!
QBP saved so much money that we gave every employee more than $100 back at the beginning of the next year. That has to be a first. These top 100 bicycle commuters have incurred an estimated annual savings of $200,000, experiencing one-third of the claims related costs of non-bicycle commuters. Overall, the study finds that a $45,000 investment in employee health and wellbeing generates more than $670,000 in economic return.
We hope that the HealthPartners/QBP study becomes an inspiration to companies everywhere to start their own commuter programs. Additionally, this is proof that spending money on bike projects not just as a company but as a city, state, and nation can have very real and positive results when it comes to fighting ever-increasing health care costs and childhood obesity.
With studies like this and increasing attention paid to mixed modal transit we can start to change the way that America looks at the bicycle. No longer is it merely a toy for kids, but one of the most powerful tools to achieve a healthier and more sustainable country.