With the beginning of a new year, people are always more health conscious. The key is to continue the momentum throughout the months and years ahead through a successful relationship between employees and employers. The personal advantages are easy – improved health – and the benefits to organizations can be lower healthcare costs.
The past few years have proven to be a tough healthcare environment. National healthcare expenditures were approximately $3 trillion in the U.S.. This is 18 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product or about $9,000 per capita.
In 2012, the Kaiser Family Foundation investigated annual expenses for organizations to provide health insurance to employees. The results were staggering. In Wisconsin, employers paid on average $12,317 for employee health insurance family plans.
Organizations continue to grapple with increased healthcare costs – most likely their second highest expense to employee compensation.
While there are no “quick fixes,” a great start is to encourage wellness and nutrition habits to create a healthier workforce.
With the advent of healthcare reform, wellness programs won a huge victory. For example, Medicare will pay for an annual wellness checkup and the healthcare reform also changed insurance regulations whereby insurers must demonstrate they are encouraging wellness initiatives.
Employer-based wellness programs are one avenue of encouraging a healthy workforce. These programs typically offer annual health risk assessments, lifestyle and wellness coaching, dietician sessions, smoking cessation classes, and a variety of other options such as disease management coaching. Such programs have positively impacted health insurance costs and been beneficial for employees.
A recent article noted that for every healthcare dollar invested by an organization on wellness programs, the average return on investment was six dollars. Another study found that for every dollar invested on healthcare, medical expenses fell $3.27 and absenteeism costs fell $2.73 when having comprehensive wellness programs.
This demonstrates wellness programs are clearly an investment rather than an expense; and such programs not only reduce expenses, but also achieve healthier and more productive employees.
While some health plans provide free wellness coaching or online health risk assessments, be cautious that you may receive what you pay for. Online assessments are often based on employees entering their own data vs. actual data gathered from a trained healthcare professional; and coaching that isn’t personalized for employees could be counter-productive.
Other wellness initiatives include financial wellness classes, Employee Assistance Programs, or other stress management training to assist employees overall wellness of mind in addition to physical health.
Creating a healthier workforce and reducing long-term healthcare requires an investment and collaboration by both employees and organizations. Employees must invest time and effort; while organizations must invest in employee physical and emotional wellness, which should translate into lower long-term healthcare expenses – a win-win for employees and organizations.