It’s about time. More employers are imposing financial penalties on employees who say “No thanks” to wellness programs which means that if you want a burger and fries for lunch instead of a nice brisk walk you’re going to pay for your bad habits. The questions is will additional financial incentives be enough to get people to take responsibility for their own health ?
According to Forbes; Employees are first asked to fill out a health assessment questionnaire and sign up for at least one program (weight loss, smoking cessation, stress management, nutrition education or a walking group) or pay $600 more a year ($1,200 for a couple) for health insurance. But “it’s surprising how many people will leave $600 on the table,” says Shelly Wolff, health and productivity national leader with benefits consultancy Towers Watson in Stamford, Conn. Another approach to penalties: employers reduce the amount they’ll contribute to an employee’s health savings or health reimbursement account. It’s like a paycut.
I guess $50 a month isn’t enough to motivate people to take a proactive approach to their wellness which is why a more total approach to health is needed. For example employees could be required to answer some health questions and based on the answers they could see their real age and the chance that they are going to have a major health problem. I mean imaging logging onto your company intranet site and learning that your real age is 10+ years above your age and that there is a good chance that “you work hard then you die” is a reality.
The use of wellness penalties by employers more than doubled from 2009 to 2011, rising from 8% to 19% of employers, and is expected to double again by 2012, when 38% of employers expect to have penalties in place, according to Towers Watson’s 2011/2012 Staying@Work Report.
What employers are learning is that healthier employees are more productive employees and don’t cost as much at a time when everyone is trying to control costs. Full-time U.S. workers who have chronic health troubles or are overweight cost more than $153 billion in lost productivity each year from absenteeism, according to a Gallup-Healthways study. Compared with non-overweight healthy workers, the 86 percent of U.S. workers who have weight or health issues, or both, miss an estimated 450 million extra days of work a year, the study said.
It’s time for consumers to start taking more responsibility for their own health. They have to because frankly there is just too much conflicting health information being reported every week in the news and we seem to be learning everyday that approved prescription medications have more side effects that first reported. The latest news around Chantix and suicide is just an example of another new side effect being reported and as one physician told me “I don’t think Ibuprofen could get approved for OTC use today because of new reported issues”.
Charging people more for unhealthy lifestyles is a great first step but more needs to be done to get consumers and employees to take their health more personally. We cannot just pop pills for bad lifestyle choices anymore.
- Survey details slower health insurance cost hikes (seattlepi.com)
- Lifestyle Choices and Health Care Costs (atheistethicist.blogspot.com)
- More employers reward, penalize workers to drive employer health (hr1services.com)
- Companies Require Smokers, Obese Pay Higher Healthcare Premiums (usnews.com)
- Companies focus on worker health to curb costs (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Diet fads and facts – health information from Bupa Health Insurance (bupa.com.au)