The healthcare world called to Jeremy Galinat early. His uncle was an orthopedic surgeon, and that connection inspired Galinat to look to a local heart surgeon as a mentor while still in high school. However, his career trajectory changed when he went in to observe surgery for the first time. “I passed out cold,” Galinat says. “I woke up and the nurses were all around me. The doctor looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if this is for you.’” Although surgery may not have been for Galinat, that didn’t mean healthcare wasn’t for him. Instead, he took inspiration from his accountant father and found a way to use a finance background to enhance the well-being of others as the vice president of corporate benefits for Caesars Entertainment Corporation and its affiliated companies.
The world’s most diversified casino-entertainment provider, Caesars Entertainment owns and operates forty-seven casinos in thirteen US states and five countries, including the world-famous Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Successfully operating all those properties means employing a massive staff spread across three shifts each day at each affiliated facility, as many of the sites operate on 24/7 schedules. And keeping all of those employees happy and healthy means ensuring that they have a comprehensive benefits package.
Galinat first understood the impact that he could have on the health of an organization when with Wynn Las Vegas, another prominent gaming company. After earning a bachelor’s degree in finance and an MBA, Galinat took on corporate finance roles, but Wynn offered him his first opportunity to take the lessons of the market to the benefits world. “I just fell in love with the work. There is no definitive approach to employee benefits. Each company does things a little different to maximize the efficiency of its program and provide the best benefits they can offer employees,” he explains. Instead of conforming to any particular rule, Galinat utilized his extensive understanding of finance and passion for learning to grow in a new direction.
By the time he reached Caesars, Galinat had reached a level of expertise within the benefits world necessary to make an impact on a much larger audience. In addition, his experience with executives helped him learn how to prioritize the right projects. Even though he was working in benefits rather than purely finance, the maintenance of strong accounting and financial controls remained critical, as it allowed him to track all spending, easily compare time periods, and analyze information and data from vendors and partners.
Moving to Caesars, a larger organization, meant that focusing on only the most important things became all that much more critical. Managing the benefits of that many more employees meant a lot more work, but it also meant that Galinat could find better rates and have the flexibility to test innovative ideas. “Our size as an enterprise gives us the leverage to provide great benefits for our employees at an affordable cost,” Galinat says. “Our employee contributions for healthcare are much lower than most national companies. We also have the freedom to try new things such as surgical centers of excellence or expert second opinions.”
However, the expanded size also presents its own challenges. First and foremost, it can be more difficult to communicate with all employees when they’re scattered across the country and working at any time in the day. For that reason, Galinat credits his partners in human resources and internal communications for their ability to help bring his messages to the table.
A recent project that required a lot of collaboration and communication was the launch of the Benefits Villa app, a one-stop shop for employees looking for information or hoping to make changes to their benefits plans. “The mobile app came from a need to organize our benefits in a way that members could intuitively navigate to what they were looking for,” he says. Produced in partnership with ClearCost Health, the app connects the organization’s wellness program, telemedicine, and cost transparency information from multiple carriers. That amount of information may have seemed overwhelming to some employees, but Galinat explains that the team at ClearCost quickly understood the need and delivered a stellar product. “The more they built, the more I envisioned for the app,” he says. “I wanted it to organize all of our benefits, contain digital insurance ID cards, send push notification reminders, and include our annual benefits guide and video.”
Now on version 13.2 of the app, Galinat and ClearCost are always working to make it faster, easier to navigate, and more refined. As a next project, they’re working on developing push notifications that can be activated by ClearCost when an employee could be saving money by using lower-cost providers.
Saving money on the supply side of healthcare is important, but equally essential is impacting the demand. Although many large companies offer comprehensive benefits packages, Caesars’ Wellness Rewards program addresses employee health in a unique way.
Prior to Galinat joining the organization, Caesars brought in nurses and health coaches to circulate within each of its many facilities, as well as established ten medical clinics offering various services. The WellNurses, Galinat says, are the lifeblood of the benefits program. “They’re responsible for not only shepherding employees and their spouses through the program, but also meeting employees where they are in their healthcare journey,” he says. Their passionate contribution to the health efforts of the organization and its employees, he adds, have shown incredible results. In fact, the plan has operated at less than 1 percent inflation over the past five years, a number unrivaled in similar organizations.
Wellness Rewards maximizes the federally allowed 30 percent value of an employer wellness plan. Because it offers such a meaningful contribution, Galinat has seen the plan rise to a participation rate of more than 90 percent. “That’s just unheard of in employer-provided wellness plans. But people are going to participate if it’s very meaningful for them to do so,” he says. In addition, those participating employees become like ambassadors for the program. “When that many people are participating, there is a snowball effect. They’re talking about it in the hallways, in the employee dining room, and helping one another,” he says. “If somebody has a question, they can ask their coworker and there’s a better than 90 percent chance that person knows about Wellness Rewards.”
Each year, Galinat hosts a summit at which the nurses and benefits team meet to discuss results from the previous year, learn from recurring challenges, train on best practices, and celebrate successes. “These champions are working on the front lines every day, face to face with employees, and I believe it’s important to pull together for them to see the impact of their efforts at a macro level as well as to take a break and recharge,” Galinat says.
Communication and transparency are essential when working with the sorts of innovative ideas that Galinat has brought to Caesars employees. Having those ideas tied to financial incentives lays a strong groundwork, but the Wellness Rewards program endeavors to make as big a difference in employees’ health as their wallets.
All of these decisions, Galinat explains, are made in order to help the many employees of Caesars find their own connection to health and wellness, much like he did. “It’s mandatory to empower your members with the knowledge to make informed decisions,” he says. “We genuinely care about our employees. It’s our responsibility as a company to do as much as we can to improve the health of our employees.”
Photos by Chasman Photo
Jeremy’s pragmatic and thoughtful approach to Caesars’ innovative and comprehensive wellness program, Wellness Rewards, has ensured its sustained success. His willingness to partner with Cigna to invest in and refine the program, has led to exceptional engagement, a significant return on investment and, crucially, demonstrably improved the health of Caesars’ employees and their families.