A Different Way

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Corporate Wellness: Bottom Line Strategies for Effective Healthcare Reform

Posted by Marietta chiropractor on August 14, 2007

It is clear to virtually every American (especially those of us in business) that healthcare costs are skyrocketing out of control. No one doubts that either the market will solve the problem OR the government will impose one on us. Managed care has failed from either a cost containment or quality of care perspective. Companies have reached the point where the cost of providing health insurance is almost as burdensome as government regulation. It’s time for some new thinking on healthcare and its impact on business and vice versa. “Corporate wellness” as an operational perspective instead of merely window dressing is one way to deal effectively with rising healthcare costs.

The Insurance Problem

The first step in correcting the problem is to realize that an employee’s health is their own responsibility. Expecting employers to provide unlimited health insurance coverage is simply unrealistic and unreasonable. It’s time for employers (on a broad scale) to reconsider their role in providing health insurance coverage. Instead of providing complete coverage for all employees through group plans, companies should begin to shift the burden of health coverage to those covered.

Here’s the approach. Provide catastrophic health insurance as a group benefit to all employees with a large enough deductible (say $5000 per employee) to make the cost affordable for the company. Then, allow employees to buy their own health insurance policies (based on their own needs) and pay for them through payroll deduction with pre-tax earnings. There are numerous insurance companies that sell individual plans on this basis. Everybody wins. Employees can tailor their coverage to their own needs and circumstances using their own doctors. Companies win by stopping the endless cycle of rising costs and ever-changing plans. And when individuals become responsible for the cost of their own insurance, they become more attentive to their own health. Besides, if an employee is interested in working for you ONLY because your company offers great insurance benefits aren’t they telling you they’re going to cost you more money in the future?

Develop a “Wellness Culture”

Our current “sickness culture” perpetuates the healthcare crisis and hastens the demise of market-based solutions. By sickness culture, I mean our focus on health problems instead of on having a healthy workplace and performance culture.

So, what would a “wellness culture” look like? First, instead of paid sick days, employees might be rewarded at year’s end with an attendance bonus. Employees would be reimbursed for successful completion of smoking cessation and weight-loss programs. Companies would invest in corporate memberships at local health clubs so every employee can participate. Employees would be offered in-house wellness programs on a variety of issues ranging from ergonomics to stress management. Finally, companies would commit to hiring and retaining healthy employees. Simply put, healthy employees cost less and are more productive than unhealthy ones. Applicants should be screened for health habits and practices that limit their productivity and increase the likelihood of future expense. While this may seem harsh, it rewards those employees whose personal lifestyle and habits ensure the best Return on Investment by the company committing to hire, train and pay them.

Be open to “alternative and complementary” approaches

Studies published in major medical journals reveal that individuals who use “alternative and complementary” health modalities (including chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and massage) are generally healthier, better educated, take fewer medications and miss fewer days from work than the average American. Since these individuals look for ways to stay healthy without drugs and surgery, they end up being a net benefit in terms of attendance and productivity. Old prejudices in this area should be discarded in order for companies to improve productivity and increase profitability

Conclusion

Healthcare costs are increasing at a staggering pace. Managed care is an abysmal failure. Companies are buckling under the pressure of providing health coverage to their employees. American competitiveness in the market is sagging. These times call for extraordinary solutions. It’s time for American companies to consider some out-of-the-box solutions to the healthcare crisis. Corporate wellness is an approach that is timely, achievable and reasonable given the alternatives. All options should be considered while we still have a chance.

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3 Responses to “Corporate Wellness: Bottom Line Strategies for Effective Healthcare Reform”

  1. Your option of developing a “Wellness Culture” within corporations is certainly a step in the right direction for solving our current healthcare crisis. And, in fact many of the major corporations are already moving in that direction.

    And while I agree that employees need to be more responsible for their own health, I do not believe that shifting the burden of health coverage to those covered will help solve this crisis.

    That’s because the real problem, in my opinion, is the practice of medicine itself. This honorable profession has allowed itself to be taken over by the billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry and other related businesses. In short, modern medicine has become Big Business and has lost sight of its sworn oath – to “first do no harm.”

    Truth is the modern medical system we have in the United States is extremely risky for patients.

    The Nutrition Institute of America conducted the first broad survey of the side effects of Western medicine in the U.S. It found that adverse drug effects and medical errors account for some 784,000 deaths a year, making Western medicine the leading cause of death in America. (Death by Medicine, 2006)

    It also seems as if the public is beginning to wise up to this. A recent CBS News Poll found that 90% of Americans now believe that our healthcare system needs fundamental changes. A full 36 percent favor a complete overhaul.

    So, having employees pay for dangerous and often ineffective treatment is little better than having the corporations pay.

    As a Health Psychologist who’s been practicing mind/body healing for over 30 years, my goal is to stop this modern-day plague and change the face of healthcare forever. My passion is to bring the heart and soul back into medical practice.

  2. Developing a “wellness culture” is without doubt a fine idea … IF wellness is targeted to the capacities that specifically benefit the employer. For example, wellness amongst commodity traders is very different than amongst fire fighters. “Business case” wellness is a sound investment.

  3. Mythophile said

    Interesting no one mentioned the cost of having older workers vs young ones. Babyboomers have more experience so businesses want them, then wonder why their costs for health coverage are so high. You can’t have your cake and eat it to.

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