Wellness programs, a phrase that means different things to different corporations. Effective wellness programs can be as simple as bringing baskets of fresh fruit into break rooms to encourage better eating. They can be as extensive as building fitness facilities onsite or paying for obesity treatments.
A driving factor behind the push toward wellness programs spans corporations of all types, sizes and cultures: that is, medical expenses are spilling over the organization belt buckle. The annual cost of medical services in the U.S. is increasing at seven times the rate of inflation. And the rise in medical costs is one boom pundits expect our economy to sustain.1
This trend makes it increasingly challenging for corporations to maintain current levels of insurance coverage. In 2003, medical inflation forced 65% of corporations to increase workers’ share of health costs.
Seventy-nine% of large firms said they will increase workers’ share of health costs in 2004. But with lost benefits and increased financial burdens come lost morale and productivity. As a result, corporations are searching for another way.
Wellness Programs To The Rescue
While corporations cannot control many of the supply-side elements contributing to increasing medical costs—malpractice insurance rates, the nursing shortage—they can help curb demand. That’s why efforts are being redirected from illness to wellness programs.
The case for Wellness Programs is supported by an ever growing body of evidence demonstrating the high costs associated with controllable health risks:
- One research study reports that obesity raises medical costs by 36% and medication costs by 77%.
- Michigan officials estimate physical inactivity cost the state nearly $8.9 billion in 2002, a cost estimated to be largely borne by corporations through insurance premiums and lost productivity.
- The not-for-profit National Committee for Quality Assurance reports that the estimated average cost for postnatal care for women who did not receive prenatal care was $2,341 more than for women who had. And the indirect costs of unhealthful behavior can be just as high.
Information shows that healthier workers are more productive, spending more time at work and showing increased “presenteeism,” or productivity, while there. Further, healthier workers use fewer medical services.
The five leading causes of death in the U.S. — heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes — are directly linked to unhealthy lifestyles. Clearly, encouraging healthful habits presents an opportunity to improve workers’ well being, reduce the need for medical services and help control costs.
Wellness Programs: Good for All
Offering wellness programs — large or small — represents an intersection between organization social responsibility and responsibility to stakeholders. Between employee health and corporate health - it's often the right thing to do for workers and corporations.
Research by Traveler’s Corp. shows a $3.40 return for every dollar invested in Employee Wellness Programs. For many corporations, the choice to offer wellness programs is easy—one where conscience and pragmatism align.
The challenge arises in selecting the initiatives that will deliver the most impact based on trends in your workers’ health risks and medical claims costs. From large corporations to the corner deli, business owners welcome ways to boost productivity, reduce rates of absence and cut costs. Likewise, Wellness Programs can range from modest to elaborate.
In deciding where to focus a business’s limited resources, looking at benefits, costs and best practices is a good starting point. If you need assistance in finding the best possible wellness programs for your employees then please contact us and / or request free
wellness quotes using the button found to the right.