Best Practices: Wellness, Four Ways Companies Can Lower Their Medical Costs
Obamacare has created enormous uncertainty for business owners. Business owners are unclear about what Obamacare’s mandates will cost them in 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2014 or what additional benefits will have to be provided. All they know is that these things will cost them more — probably a lot more — and that they’re going to be spending a significant amount of time and money in the foreseeable future. Tax accountants and consultants will be challenged with calculating insurance options or fines.
The most immediate strategy at this time and any time are to controls costs and maximize profitability so that businesses can weather unforeseen storms, such as Obamacare. The ROI (Return on Investment) advantages of Wellness Programs must be harnessed.
There is huge hidden expense in companies often not measured or discussed; the cost of absence, disability and the cost of lost productivity. Personal illness accounts for 34 percent of unscheduled absences often resulting in lost productivity and the need for higher headcounts. The higher headcounts result in increased costs for additional healthcare. It’s a vicious cycle. The cost of absence, disability and lost productivity alone might make the difference between a company being profitable or not profitable.
Companies, large and small lose enormous revenue when they operate their business with ineffective absence-management business processes and wellness program management. It is imperative that companies focus and place emphasis on the employees and their being fully healthy and productive as part and parcel of their planned profit models.
When employees come to work sick or not feeling well and are unable to perform at 100%, they are considered to be present on the job, but absent in the context of being productive referred to as presenteeism. Employees, more than ever, feel increased pressure to be at work today. They present a health or safety hazard to themselves and fellow workers and pose a health risk to others by potentially spreading their illnesses. This further exasperates productivity.
Best Practices: Four Ways Companies Can Lower Their Medical Costs
1. Wellness Consultant/Wellness Committees
Consult an on-sight business provider of health and wellness programs. Consultants provide a proactive approach and focus on improved health for the individual while minimizing costs for the corporation. Typical responsibilities of a wellness consultant might include the following:
o Review the current wellness strategy, offerings and procedures that are available to employees via a Wellness Audit or Wellness Gap Analysis
o Survey preferences and specific wellness needs
o Develop a health promotion operating plan, including a vision statement, goals, and objectives that utilize wellness as a business imperative
o Assisting in implementing, monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of the business health plan initiative
2. Tobacco-Free Company Initiative in the Workplace
An American Productivity Audit found that tobacco use was a leading cause of worker lost production time — more than alcohol abuse or family emergencies. The North Carolina Prevention Partners. Quit Now NC!: Tobacco Use & Quitting Facts, study showed that the #1 reason why people quit smoking is that their worksite has gone smoke-free. There is much opportunity for business leaders to help educate and motivate employees to adopt a smoke free life.
3. Workplace Obesity Prevention Program
Workplace obesity prevention programs can be an effective way for business owners to reduce obesity and lower their healthcare costs, eliminate presenteeism, lower absenteeism and increase employee productivity.
Many companies have come to realize that changes in the workplace can easily encourage the adoption of healthy behaviors through changes in everyday work activities. Such interventions might include the installation of bike racks on company property, facilitating physical activity through the use of company walks, use of staircases and marked company walk trails. Still other companies are offering healthier food choices in cafeterias and vending machines and beginning to change company culture by establishing health improvement goals that align with the organization’s overall Wellness Program Mission Statement.
4. Health Screenings/Health Risk Assessments
With the country buzzing about Obamacare many companies are offering health screenings and or assessments to their employees. Companies hope it would motivate the workforce to change some unhealthy behaviors and stay front-minded about their health. Blood tests offered as part of the health assessment often turn up many opportunities for better living.
Health screenings allow workers to learn about their current health status, and determine risk for common diseases including diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other medical conditions. Workers can review the results of the screening and follow up to do further tests, or request a treatment plan or wellness program based on immediate needs.
Companies that are fully committed to a Comprehensive Employee Wellness Program will often include:
o Flu Shots
o Health Fairs
o Health Coaching
o On-site Seminars
o Biometric Screenings
o Wellness Challenges with Incentives
Companies have come to realize that healthy employees boost a company’s bottom line. Experience has shown that companies will experience less sick time; take fewer disability days resulting in higher productivity.
ROI of Wellness
$1 investment in wellness programs saves $3 in health care costs, according to the Wellness Council of America and according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 75% of employers’ healthcare costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.
While the effects of Obamacare remain uncertain, we do know that providing employees with the information and tools to adopt healthy behaviors will have huge payoffs. It is a good investment to keep the American workforce healthy and businesses profitable.