A Little Matter of Health and WealthBy Kim Phelan
Article Date: 01-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Why have we been so protective of irresponsible choices that cost us so much money?
Just the other day: My 16-year-old son, thwarted in his pursuit of a sugary afterschool snack, literally choked in disbelief when I told him that health experts actually recommend five servings of fruits and veggies a day. I, in turn, nearly choked in alarm that my fairly intelligent offspring not only didn’t know that fact, but thought I was crazy for suggesting such a ridiculous idea. Kids!
This is not necessarily typical of the conversations I enjoy with my kids – for instance we also talk about why they can’t have more money, stay out past midnight or use certain unseemly phrases. However, I suppose one of the great underlying themes of parenting is the notion of teaching responsibility.
What I’d like you to consider today has to do with both responsibility and parental, shall we say, guidance. Covered in a feature article by CED’s Mary Sedor in this issue, health care insurance programs and their costs to employers represent one of the biggest figures on your bottom line, which makes it a necessary target for your scrutiny in 2009.
Health care – and particularly the concept of taking responsibility for one’s own wellness – is an issue you as an employer should be taking very seriously these days as you scour for ways to trim expenses. Mary explores how wellness programs can have a deep and long-lasting impact not only on the financial side of your business but on the highly gratifying physical and emotional health of the people who do the daily business of your company.
Essentially, a wellness program offers incentives for employees to voluntarily participate in assessments that help them address health risks and promote lifestyle- and behavior-based changes. Over time, incentives from the employer can become both positive (such as reduced employee contribution for benefits) and negative (such as being excluded from coverage), which is where the responsibility dimension factors in.
To me, it’s a no-brainer. Why on earth wouldn’t those who maintain a healthy diet, exercise, drink in moderation and don’t smoke naturally pay less than those whose lifestyles are medically proven to lead to serious and costly health problems? For a long time it’s been politically incorrect to espouse this viewpoint – but today it’s a topic corporations and small businesses around the country are bringing out of the closet, so to speak, holding individuals more responsible for their own physical well-being.
But employers who are serious about creating a culture of wellness (as well as reducing expenses) can take these programs one step further, according to experts interviewed in an article published in the December edition of “Employee Benefits News.” (www.benefitnews.com) While it’s certainly more challenging than focusing purely on the healthy habits of your workplace employees, drawing their dependents – especially their children – into adoption and practice of the wellness principles is bound to have an even greater collapsing effect on health benefits premiums and claims.
The message here: “You want to coach the parent about healthy behaviors kids ought to be engaged in,” said the vice president of a San Francisco-based wellness solution provider.
If you consider the health problems tied to childhood obesity, for example, (heart disease/cardiovascular disease risk, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and social discrimination – www.cdc.gov – and worse with adulthood) developing wellness outreach efforts that encompass the entire population of your company’s insured beneficiaries could rank among your smartest and most compassionate ‘09 decisions.
You can go back to that brownie now, and thanks for reading.
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