Prevention: A Key to Cost-Containment
Healthcare costs are spiraling out of control. Consider the following facts presented by Towers Perrin in a 2009 Healthcare Cost Survey:
- The United States will spend approximately $3 trillion on healthcare
- Companies will pay an average of $9700.00 per employee
- Ninety-five percent of every healthcare dollar will be spent on treating chronic disease
- Seventy-five percent of chronic disease in the United States is lifestyle related and prevention can help
The rising cost of healthcare is an extremely complex matter. While tackling the entire problem will require a great deal change within our current system, companies are taking steps to address the rising expense of health insurance. Transferring costs to employees, implementing high deductible health plans and attempting to create greater accountability of healthcare spending are just a few ways businesses are trying to tackle the issue.
All of these mechanisms alleviate the immediate pain employers' experience however they fail to address the underlying issue by continuing to support a system that addresses health conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, only after they become full-blown, chronic disease states.
In addition to providing a high deductible health plan or shifting cost, educating employees on their role in cost-containment and providing tools and resources to assist in transparency, companies can advance the future of their business and see a positive trend in medical spending and overall cost-containment by investing in prevention and a creating a culture of wellness and health promotion.
Prevention is the key. Historically, companies offered employees the standard wellness programs, such as gym membership discounts, massage therapy, annual health fairs and flu shots but due to a lack of structure and follow though, there has been little to show for that investment in the way of tangible risk reduction and return on investment. The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices towards, a more successful existence".
When developing a strategy for wellness implementation this definition is critical. A comprehensive wellness program is one that actively engages upper level management and employees in building a culture of health promotion, makes them aware of their current health status through preventive testing and health risk questionnaires, provides resources to promote behavior change and offers measurements of tangible results to both the company and the individual.
In addition to these principles, participation is vital to the success and cost-saving ability of the wellness program. Implementing an incentive strategy, such as medical premium discounts or plan contributions for timely participation in a health risk questionnaire or health screening, year-long participation in health promotion activities and/or achievement of certain biometric factors promotes engagement and measurable success.
Not only can a more complete wellness program assist in the prevention of chronic disease, it can also decrease absenteeism, decrease workers compensation and disability claims, improve employee productivity, enhance employee morale and aid in recruitment, retention and loyalty. The American Journal of Health Promotion states that a well-designed program can yield an average ROI of $3.48 for every $1.00 invested.
By implementing a strategically designed wellness program, a company will breed a culture of health engagement and prevention which will yield positive returns on the investment and facilitate the containment of future healthcare costs.
About The Author
Leah A. Tiller, MHPM Director of Health Risk Management Higginbotham & Associates Leah brings more than 12 years experience in program development and evaluation, personnel management and relationship cultivation in health and wellness venues. She combines her non-profit and corporate practice, academic training and passion for excellence to develop customized health risk management initiatives and incentive programs that are founded on strong, client-focused relationships.
Prior to joining Higginbotham & Associates, Leah worked in sales and marketing for a large health promotion vendor consulting on the importance of effective worksite health risk management programs. She has presented at numerous professional events, been quoted in The Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Business Journal, The Fort Worth Star Telegram and appeared on TXCN.
Leah is an active participant in the community, volunteering as a wellness expert for various foundations and symposiums, as a co-chair of Champion's in Health committee, a state leader for Health Promotion Advocates and an active member of The Health Industry Council of North Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health.
Her passion for health and wellness has taken various forms throughout her life. During the past 11 years, she has completed numerous marathons, including The Boston Marathon; three ultra-marathons; one Ironman and The Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. Leah holds a masters of science in health promotion management, a bachelor's degree in dietetics and institutional administration and is a licensed insurance agent.