Health Promotion: Employee Wellness and Effective Health Care Reform

It’s clear to virtually every American (especially those of us in business) that health care costs are skyrocketing out of control.

No one doubts that either the market will solve the problem OR the government will impose one on us. Managed care has failed from either a cost containment or quality of care perspective.

Companies have reached the point where the cost of providing health insurance is almost as burdensome as government regulation. It is time for some new thinking on healthcare and its impact on organization and vice versa.

Corporate wellness as an operational perspective instead of merely window dressing is one way to deal effectively with rising health care costs.

The Insurance Problem

The first step in correcting the problem is to realize that an employee’s health is their own responsibility. Expecting companys to provide unlimited health insurance coverage is simply unrealistic and unreasonable.

It is time for businesss (on a broad scale) to reconsider their role in providing medical insurance coverage. Instead of providing complete coverage for all staff through group plans, corporations should begin to shift the burden of health coverage to those covered.

Here is the approach. Give catastrophic medical insurance as a group benefit to all staff members with a large enough deductible (say $5000 per employee) to make the cost low cost for the company.

Then, allow workforce to buy their own medical insurance policies (based on their own needs) and pay for them through payroll deduction with pre-tax earnings.

There are numerous insurance companies that sell individual plans on this basis. Everyone wins. Workers can tailor their coverage to their own needs and circumstances using their own doctors. Organizations win by stopping the endless cycle of rising costs and ever-changing plans.

And when person become responsible for the cost of their own insurance, they become more attentive to their own health.

Besides, if an staff member is interested in working for you ONLY because your company offers great insurance benefits are not they telling you they are going to cost you more money in the future?

Develop a “Wellness Culture”

Our current “sickness culture” perpetuates the health care crisis and hastens the demise of market-based solutions. By illness culture, I mean our focus on health problems in lieu of on having a healthy workplace and performance culture.

Additionally, what would a “wellness culture” look like? First, instead of compensated sick days, workforce might  be rewarded at year’s end with an attendance bonus.

Staff Members would be reimbursed for successful completion of tobacco use cessation and weight-loss programs. Organizations would invest in corporate memberships at local health clubs so every staff member can participate.

Employees would be offered in-house health promotion programs on a selection of issues ranging from ergonomics to stress management. Finally, organizations would commit to hiring and retaining healthful employees.

Simply put, healthy staff cost less and are more productive than unhealthy ones. Applicants should be screened for health habits and practices that limit their productivity and increase the likelihood of future expense.

While this may seem harsh, it rewards those personnel whose personal lifestyle and habits ensure the best Return on Investment by the business committing to hire, train and pay them.

Be open to “alternative and complementary” approaches

Studies published in major medical journals reveal that individuals who use “alternative and complementary” health modalities (including chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and massage) are ordinarily healthier, better educated, take fewer medications and miss fewer days from work than the average American.

Since these individuals look for ways to stay healthy without drugs and surgery, they end up being a net benefit as for attendance and productivity. Old prejudices in this area should be discarded in order for corporations to improve productivity and increase profitability

Conclusion

Healthcare costs are increasing at a staggering pace. Managed care is an appalling failure. Companies are buckling beneath the pressure of providing health coverage to their workers.

American competitiveness in the market is sagging. These times call for incredible solutions. It’s time for American corporations to consider some out-of-the-box solutions to the healthcare crisis.

Corporate wellness is an approach that is timely, achievable and reasonable given the alternatives. All options ought to be considered while we still have a chance.