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Insurance Alone Won’t Make Your Workforce Healthy

September 15, 2010 / Uncategorized

Washington recently expanded coverage to the millions of uninsured Americans with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). But let’s face it – just having health insurance isn’t enough to keep people healthy. Washington seems to recognize that, too, as evidenced with certain provisions passed in the PPACA.  The notion of prevention is becoming more central, which is critical if we’re actually going to see real reform in our healthcare system.

As many of you know, HIPPA currently allows employers to provide discounts on health insurance premiums of up to 20% for those who participate in wellness programs. Under the new legislation in the PPACA, beginning in 2014, that amount can be increased to 30%, and may be increased to 50% at the discretion of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Of course, the wellness programs must meet certain requirements to qualify: they must be voluntary and non-discriminatory, and they must provide reasonable alternative standards to receive the discount for those who are physically unable to achieve the program milestones.

What does this increase mean? It means government is formally recognizing the value of cultivating healthy lifestyles. It’s telling employers to provide substantial incentive to employees to take care of themselves first, instead of just waiting to be treated after they’re sick.  It’s applying the same gain-sharing concept of a “good driver discount” to health insurance: employees who make good decisions like being physically active will benefit with a big discount on their health insurance premiums, while those who do not take care of themselves will bear more of the financial burden. It’s a widely accepted approach in nearly all other forms of insurance, and it’s encouraging to see government recognize that it’s critical in health care.

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