WELLNESS PROGRAMS SLOWED THE GROWTH OF HEALTH CARE COSTS
Managing the cost of healthcare and retirement has been a main focus of HR professionals for quite some time. Preventive health and wellness benefits are designed to help maintain or change employees’ behavior in order to achieve better health and decrease health risks. By preventing or lessening the incidence of adverse health conditions, employers hope to save on long-term health costs. (Miller, 10)
According to a study published in the March/April 2011edition of the American Journal of Health Promotion, when employers consistently offered a wellness program to their employees, findings of health care costs rose at ...view middle of the document...
(SHRM online staff, 2011)
Though wellness programs are an enhancement and accomodation benefit, they are very beneficial to the company as well as the employee. They save the company money in the long-run by promoting and maintaing the physical and psychological health of employees. Companies can expect to save as much as six dollars in medical insurance costs for every one dollar invested in preventive health programs. Employers treat the cost of wellness programs as a normal business expense; however, employees do not receive any tax benefits for costs. Wellness programs may emphasize a range of activities and vary in scope. They may focus us weight loss only, or they may include back care, smoking cessation, stress management, weight control and nutrition, and health risk appraisals. The programs may be offered on-site or off-site. Employers usually use health-risk appraisals to inform employees of potential health risk. The appraisals are based on physical examinations, responses to questions about certain habits (diet, amount of exercise, family medical history, etc.). These appraisals help employees minimize risksand follow-through helps employers minimize and control health insurance claims. Some common elements of a health risk appraisal are: analysis of blood chemicals such as cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and uric acid levels, blood pressure check, body measurements (height, weight, percentage of body fat), colorectal cancer screening, diabetes screening, electrocardiogram, examination for breast cancer, glaucoma screening, hearing tests, kidney and liver functions, lung function, medical history, physical capacity, physical fitness, and stress tests. The result of the health risk appraisal can help encourage employees to utilize wellness and employee assisted programs confidentially. (Martocchio, 2011)
Employer-sponsored health insurance benefits are mainly governed by the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Tax regulations of employer-sponsored health insurance practices are governed by the Internal Revenue Service. (Martocchio, 2011)
Though wellness programs have been in use for a number of years, in tough economic times, such as today, they should not be perceived as a benefit to employees, but to the company as well. There is a connection between healthy employees and benefit to the company. Companies with wellness programs have better employee attendance, lower medical and compensation costs, and happier, more productive employees. Employees who live healthy lifestyles experience fewer illnesses and injuries than other workers, and they heal from illnesses and injuries quicker. Employees who take pro-active steps to living healthier lives are more alert, have more positive outlooks, are able to adapt to stress and change more effectively, and tend to live longer lives. ...