The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) means a great deal to us in the "wellness" field. For the first time ever, this bill will provide us with short-term and long-term benefits that will help curtail the organizational costs (mostly financial) of sick employees and the benefits of healthy ones, such as improved productivity, morale, and less usage of the medical system.
The provisions will take some time to implement, but employers and employees can expect an increased emphasis on wellness in the workplace as this decade progresses. Dr. Rachel Permuth-Levine interviews Corporate Wellness Magazine's Anna Konger about some of the wellness provisions and their potential implications for your companies and how you might implement wellness programs in your organizations.
Rachel: Anna, what kind of short-term benefits come out of the wellness legislation?
Anna: A National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy will be developed for the country. Leaders from the US Department of Agriculture, Transportation, Education and Health and Human Services, along with a group of non-federal advisors will shape a policy plan that will look at many societal aspects of health. In addition, more funding will be made available for health promotion research studies. You will also begin to see more health plans required to cover preventive services at no additional cost (such services are referenced by the Clinical Preventive Services Task Forces and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Community).
Rachel: What are the implications of this bill for small businesses?
Anna: These businesses have the most to gain. $200 million dollars in grant funding will be made available from the Department of Health and Human Services to fund comprehensive health promotion programs for employers of 100 staff or less. Details forthcoming.
Rachel: What are some of the benefits for larger employers?
Anna: Larger employers will be able to allow their employees premium differentials of up to 30% for staff who meet specific health goals, such as achieving a certain fitness level, having normal biometric levels, and not smoking.
Rachel: How does this bill benefit employees?
Anna: Employees who are currently taking good care of their health will be able to see decreased medical costs and there will be increased use of incentives (monetary and nonmonetary) for employees to participate in these programs
Rachel: How should an employer get started?
Anna: A great place to get started is by reading up on the provisions of this bill and by joining organizations that can provide materials and technical assistance for planning, implementing, and evaluating employee health programs. A great place to start is the Healthier Worksite Initiative by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/hwi/index.htm. You will find resources, and step-by-step toolkits to help you improve the health of your employees.
Rachel: We don't have a lot of money for employee wellness at my company. Can we still do something?
Anna: Absolutely. Many companies are in the same boat. Start small. Capitalize on the free health benefits for employees provided by your insurance. For instance, some insurers provide free health risk assessments for covered persons, others provide pedometers and walking kits. Have lunch and learn speakers brought in.
The CDC site referenced above is a great place to get you started. Wellness in the workplace is going to be an increasing trend in cost savings for our organizations, but more importantly, it provides a great opportunity for all of us to create a supportive environment for our own staff to become happier and healthier.
About the Author
Rachel Permuth-Levine, PhD, MSPH, is a public health practitioner and an expert in worksite health promotion. As a health behavior theorist, she strives to use evidence-based programs that produce the best results for her employees. Rachel is also a yoga and fitness instructor.
Anna Konger is the Assistant Editor of the Corporate Wellness Magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.