So much talk about healthcare in the news lately! While some are following the issues very closely, most are feeling out of control of the fate of healthcare as we know it.
Many are just waiting to see how it all shakes out—to see what will work and what will break. Certainly in employer-sponsored health plans, wellness benefits and preventive exams are going to be a part of reform. Bills in both the Senate and the House include prevention/wellness reform proposals. But how many people are currently utilizing the preventive benefits of their health plans to the fullest today? How many are just waiting until something breaks, and then getting the best and most expensive care they can find?
I have a new car. I am going to drive that new car until it dies. I am not going to have the oil checked or changed. I am not going to get new tires. I am simply going to drive it until it dies.
This is the philosophy many take with their own bodies. Many of us take better care of our cars than we do of our own bodies. When purchasing auto insurance, if a driver is irresponsible with their car or driving habits, as evidenced by multiple tickets and/or accidents, they will pay more. This philosophy does not carry through in health insurance…yet.
Employer-sponsored health plans are available to all employees—not just the ones being responsible with their bodies and living a healthy lifestyle.
Research tells us that 60 to 70 percent of expenditures for illness are preventable. Failure to manage blood pressure, weight, smoking and cholesterol drives these claim dollars. Preventive exams such as mammograms, pap smears, colorectal exams and routine blood work are all methods to catch these preventable illnesses, to treat early and save not only lives, but healthcare dollars.
Today, many employers are providing opportunities for their employees to be proactive and responsible. Preventive benefits are included in most employer-sponsored health plans, but it’s up to the employee to take advantage of this offering. Many employers are taking further steps to encourage wellness in their workplace. Many are now offering worksite wellness opportunities. They are incentivizing and sometimes requiring their employees to participate in these programs if they want to be on the employer-sponsored health plan. Examples of wellness programs include such things as health education classes, subsidized use of fitness facilities, internal policies that promote healthy behavior and environmental changes that affect the health of employees.
Healthy employees are happy employees, and they save employers money. The cost for other benefits like long-term disability, short-term disability, and workman’s compensation all decrease with a healthy workforce. Healthy employees are absent less and more productive when present.
Endless amounts of research and information are available to employers and employees alike from organizations like the Wellness Council of America (welcoa.org) and the Kaiser Family Foundation (kff.org). In addition, the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center is a world-wide leader in health choices and the resulting quality of life (hmrc.umich.edu). iBi