Cumberland Insurance Launches Employee Wellness Initiative

September 1, 2009


The Bridgeton “Living CIGnificantly” team members present Betty Vivona with a gift card for winning the “Name of the Committee” contest. Pictured (L-R) are Norm Hetzell, Betty Vivona, Kelli Fisher, Laurie LaTorre, and Frank Wilson.


CUMBERLAND COUNTY, NEW JERSEY: In today’s economy, rising health care costs are putting the squeeze on many businesses. Double-digit yearly rate increases have sent corporate America scrambling to find new ways to lower health benefit costs in order to stay competitive in the marketplace. At The Cumberland Insurance Group, employees have become partners in this effort through a new initiative entitled “Living CIGnificantly.”

“From 2008 to 2009, the Company’s health care premiums increased 10.44% and prescription premiums increased 50%,” said Cumberland Insurance Group President and CEO Robert P. Brady. “This surge in health care costs could reduce our capacity to invest in capital improvements, product development, and employee benefits, all of which would have a profound impact on our ability to grow and compete for new business. Working with our employees, we felt we could do better. As a result, management is encouraging employee efforts to be true partners in the Company’s health care decisions.”

A study released this year by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine found that 62% of all companies, ranging from small to large, offer some type of wellness program. “Prior to the ‘Living CIGnificantly’ initiative, Cumberland Insurance did sporadically promote employee health related issues, but admittedly it was unfocused. The exciting part of this initiative is that employees are out front promoting the effort. Senior Management strongly believes empowering employees to take charge of their health care is a critical step in controlling escalating costs,” Brady said.

The “Living CIGnificantly” initiative is designed to educate employees on how to be better consumers of health care services. The initiative includes a six-member team who meet regularly to discuss options to improve employee nutrition, exercise, and overall well-being. The team consists of members from the Bridgeton, New Jersey; Coatesville, Pennsylvania; and Mansfield, Ohio offices including Laurie LaTorre, Norm Hetzell, Kelli Fisher, Frank Wilson, Steve Sutter, and Brenda Taylor.

According to Human Resources Director Laurie LaTorre, “The wellness team was formed in March, and the first thing we did was to conduct a survey of employees to better understand their health needs and concerns, and how these fit within the Company’s goals and objectives. As part of this survey, we also conducted a ‘Name The Committee’ contest among the employees. The Committee received dozens of e-mail submissions and each member chose their top three suggestions. After review and much discussion, we selected ‘Living CIGnificantly,’ which had been submitted by Bridgeton employee Betty Vivona. We were pleased to award Betty a Visa giftcard for the winning suggestion.”

“I was really surprised to hear the Committee had used my suggestion,” Betty said. “I was busy doing some work and it just popped into my head. I think the whole wellness effort is a great idea, and I am vey proud to play a small part in its start-up.”

“Using the survey results, we began to develop a number of wellness initiatives designed to help individuals measure their health risks and educate themselves on how to prevent future health problems,” LaTorre continued. “One of our first programs, in conjunction with Atlanticare, included offering simple tests performed on-site to measure blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, body composition, and nutrition. Over 50 employees from the Bridgeton office participated in the screenings. Subsequent screenings were also held in the Ohio office. All participants were encouraged to create ‘health dashboards’ to track things like exercise, food consumption, calories, and weight.”

Encouraged by the response, the “Living CIGnificantly” Team began to develop a variety of additional activities to motivate employees and help reduce health care costs. “We are scheduling educational sessions during lunch dealing with topics such as obesity, smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, coping with stress, nutrition labels, and healthy eating,” LaTorre continued. “We are also creating a health and safety calendar featuring artwork provided by children of employees, a holiday fund-raising cookbook featuring healthy recipes, and an annual Health Fair with vendors from throughout the health care industry.

In addition, we are examining the feasibility of creating a corporate fitness program, and ways to reward employees for participating. For example, we could give health food gift certificates, gym memberships, or award special parking spots for a week or a month. We also want to acknowledge employee health and wellness leaders in our newsletter, internal communications, and on our Web site. Thanking employees for a job well done goes a long way towards keeping people happy and motivated.”

“Our hope with this initiative is to help employees make better health care decisions by giving them the knowledge, encouragement, and the tools to actually change unhealthy lifestyles before they turn into chronic diseases. In addition to improvements in employee fitness levels, energy, and productivity, this investment will have a positive impact on our bottom-line,” Brady concluded.

The Cumberland Insurance Group, established in 1844, is celebrating its 165th anniversary and currently serves over 120,000 policyholders in the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. In 2008, the Company had Total Admitted Assets of $315,595,220 and a Policyholders’ Surplus of $140,166,468. For more information about The Cumberland Insurance Group, or to find an independent agent near you, please visit www.cumberlandgroup.com.

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