In the future, Employer health plans will focus more on Wellness

This topic is an old and fundamental issue for me, but I thought I would share some of the article I saw in the Nashville Tennessean this morning so you can gain a better flavor about this trend:

Dorinda Turnbull said she felt violated when an employer-based health plan offered savings if she and her husband would undergo blood work and agree to follow-up monitoring for any medical conditions.

“I don’t like people telling me how to live my life,” said Turnbull, who instead signed up for a more expensive traditional plan. “That was essentially what they were doing.”

In the future, she may not get that option.

Instead of waiting to pick up the tab when someone gets sick, more employers now expect their workers to be engaged in staying healthy. They want workers to get annual physicals, know whether they have diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol and then take actions to control the conditions.

Next year, one third of employers in the United States plan to reward or penalize workers depending upon their commitment to improving their health. That’s a significant jump compared with just 7 percent in 2011, according to a survey commissioned by the National Business Group on Health.

“There is no way we will control costs in this country unless we change the health profile of the nation,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit organization whose members provide coverage for more than 55 million Americans.

Back in the day, say about 2001, I was the director of HR for a progressive, growing professional services firm that implemented a wellness program  in steps over many years.  We started off with voluntary health screening provided by the Vanderbilt Dayani Center and then moved this to a point where employees received a discount in their health insurance if they chose to participate in the voluntary plan.  As you can imagine, we had employees who grumbled about this, but every year we detected at least one chronic issue, usually diabetes, but we also found other things and progressively the employees became more accustomed to this.

We live in a sick country.  Our rate of obesity is way too high   and I live in one of the leaders when it comes to this issue.  We also have too many smokers  in America and these two issues cause a myriad of health issues, many that can be prevented with the implementation of better eating habits, exercise and smoking cessation.

Many think the greatest threat to America exists in the Middle East.  I think the greatest threat to America is the “laissez faire” attitude of most Americans when it comes to health, wellness and exercise.  If we cannot help ourselves, how can we expect others to respect us?

Wellness in the workplace is essential, but it must be bigger than this.  We need to eat less, especially simple carbs, we need to exercise more and we need to minimize or eliminate smoking and tobacco usage of any kind.

Are you making an effort?  What would it take?  How much are you willing to pay?  The cost of poor health is much higher than the slight short-term discomfort of making the necessary changes.