Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wellness at Work as an Economic Driver

Yesterday, I heard the esteemed researcher, Dr. Dee Edington (Univ. of Mich.) speak.Zero Trends: Health As a Serious Economic Strategy Health and wellness is important to any economic system: family, business, community, nation. Not managing health risks means escalating costs that will drain income and profits. It takes a cultural change to drive wellness, and a support system (like the rest of the family, the workforce, the community) that's also trying to make healthy choices.

I've often been asked if wellness is important. Doesn't it cost the same whenever you have a heart attack or experience the onset of diabetes? Sure, it costs the same. However, the life cycle of the costs are much less if those occur at 65 years of age versus 40 years of age. Therefore, every business should be encouraging wellness to reduce medical claims, and directly medical insurance expenses.

Another way to reduce medical insurance expenses: perhaps the public option in Congress' health reform bill. The House version has a "penalty" up to 8% of payroll if a business doesn't provide medical insurance for its employees. In our case, 8% would be a reduction. Our range, depending on the organizational level and the type of plan (single, family), is 10-37%. Overall, our costs are 12% of payroll.

Now I'm not sure how the government thinks they can afford to provide medical insurance for only 8%, but I know it will decrease our expenses, increase our profits, increase bonuses to our employees and the stock value. At a factor of 4 or 5 times, these reduced expenses will also increase the employee-ownership accounts of employees for them when they retire.

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