Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself forever, teach an employee to be a responsible healthcare consumer and watch your benefit costs decrease. The uncertainty of the healthcare reform act and its effect on employee sponsored healthcare plans has made it even more imperative for employers to take an active interest in their employees’ health. 70% of healthcare costs are driven by behaviors, according to Rick McGill of AON Hewitt, a benefits consulting firm. Influencing those behaviors as an employer can make a huge difference in your costs, absence rates and overall employee health and attitude.
Wellness Programs Save Money
Overall, companies have embraced the idea of Wellness Programs as evidenced by the fact that almost 80% of Fortune 500 companies are offering some kind of program. That is good in itself, but encouraging employees to participate by some kind of incentive is even better. While in the past companies have incorporated monetary wellness incentives to encourage participation in wellness programs, in the future it looks as though the trend may be more on the financial penalty side. Not a bad idea, if you ask me. There should be consequences for our behavior. If a company is offering a ‘Quit Smoking’ program and a smoking employee doesn’t want to partake, that’s fine — but, there should be a consequence. At PepsiCo., smokers who didn’t join the cessation program paid $600 more a year. That small policy change resulted in increased participation and upped the smoking cessation rate by 14%.
Wellness Incentives vs. Employee Education
Yes, the incentives are seeing success, but I see a bigger area for improvement. Employee Education. I firmly believe that employers who invest in educating their employees on how to advocate for themselves when making healthcare decisions can realize substantial savings in healthcare expenses. By advocate I am referring to informed, knowledgeable consumers. One doesn’t have to be college educated to ask intelligent questions if they know what to ask. I want to see a world where the employee is asking the questions of their caregiver that should be asked such as: why this treatment plan; is this test necessary; is a generic medicine as good; what are the side effects of this drug; what treatment is not covered by insurance; is it possible to ‘watch and wait’? I want employees to know it’s not only their right, but their responsibility to ask questions of their caregiver. Furthermore, I’d be ecstatic if every person left their doctors office asking what CPT code (current procedural terminology) they are being charged for the visit. You see a doctor for 10 minutes; you should be charged the CPT for 10 minutes, not 25. Would you believe that 70% of doctor visits are coded for longer durations, rather than the 10 minutes actually spent with the doctor? It’s true.
Should I go on? I could…but this is a blog, not an advice column. If you would like more information contact me. We’ll talk. In the meantime, give your employees a rod, a reel and some bait.
Thanks for reading!