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Our View: Healthy savings add up

Taking charge of one's own health rather than leaving it up to chance is a popular sentiment these days. And when it comes to health insurance, businesses and other employers that purchase group plans are applying that approach, saving substantial amounts of money in the process.

The Ashland School District made the jump to a partially self-insured plan that incorporates preventative care and wellness activities five years ago. So far, the district has saved nearly $10 million over what it would have spent for the Oregon Educators Benefits Board plan, which covers most school districts in the state. The district's cost dropped 1.4 percent over the five-year period while premiums for the OEBB plan went up a whopping 72.2 percent.

The city of Ashland followed suit in 2013 when it was faced with a 10 percent premium increase in a single year. The move saved the city $400,000. Ashland Community Hospital and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival are also self-insured.

The principle is simple — buy health care directly for employees and stop contributing to insurance company profits — but it does require some commitment by employers and employees to keep costs down. If claims increase because employees are sicker, the employer's costs will go up, too.

An employer that works with employees to improve their health will see claims level off or even decline, a win for everyone. But employees have to see the benefits as well: that every dollar not spent on health care is money in the bank.