Prevention the Key to Controlling Healthcare Costs
October 19, 2010 / Corporate Wellness
On October 15th I spoke at the 2010 Integrated Care Summit in Washington, DC. The message I wanted to convey is that large companies are forced to scale back health coverage and employees are left stranded, picking up the difference. The stakes for American business are at an all time high. Unmanaged, preventable healthcare costs are one of the largest drains on corporate income statements. And, those costs don’t just threaten profitability. They threaten jobs, and entire family’s livelihoods. Employers have the power to turn the tables. They play a vital role in encouraging healthy behaviors and must start by creating a culture of prevention in the workplace.
Even amidst political and economic uncertainty, history repeats itself year after year. More than 75 percent of today’s healthcare costs stem from preventable, chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer – and they’re largely driven by our own personal health behaviors. And while companies are paying for employee healthcare coverage at amounts rising more than 10 percent each year they’re absorbing 70-80 percent of these cost increases. At the same time, employees are incurring higher out-of-pocket costs and larger shares of their premiums. The Kaiser Family Foundation found the average family coverage premium increased 131 percent from 1999-2009, while worker contributions increased 128 percent.
It’s clear employers can no longer shoulder this burden alone and with the US median wage at about $43,000 per year, employees can’t bear much more, either. The good news is that companies can take action and impact the prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases and their resulting medical and productivity costs by getting employees to make healthy behavior changes.
Savvy companies across the country are using innovative, technology-based employee health programs to build this culture of prevention. These programs go beyond traditional wellness programs by motivating entire employee populations – not just sub-sets like smokers or diabetics – to participate through meaningful and affordable incentives. The programs are measurable, and help both companies and workers quantifiable track progress and program impact. And they’re manageable, so organizations can integrate various, splintered wellness efforts and incentives structures. When employed, such strategies fuel long-term healthy behavior change and healthcare cost reductions for employees and companies alike.
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