Fighting our reliance on prescription drugs

SUMMARY: 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disease in their lifetime and chronic diseases account for 75% of the money our nation spends on health care, yet only 1% of health dollars are spent on public efforts to improve overall health. That has to change.

Taking a vitamin or supplement is no substitution for exercise or eating right. If we want to live long healthy lives, we need to take matters into our own hands, educate ourselves, and weed through the common health myths that may be sabotaging our efforts. Truly healthy practices are more important to our world than ever before.

Insurers, employers and HCP’s all need to get involved. There are too much phony wellness information available online, too many fake cancer treatments that could hurt patients and shorten lifespans. The supplement market is out of control because the FDA does not regulate them like prescription drugs.

About three-quarters of HR professionals said their organizations offered some type of wellness program, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. And more than two-thirds of respondents from organizations that offered wellness initiatives indicated these efforts were “somewhat effective” or “very effective” in reducing the costs of health care.

The return on investment (ROI) related to employee wellness programs typically includes the overall health care cost-savings achieved, as well as productivity increases due to a reduction in sick days taken by employees. Calculating the ROI based on the hard savings numbers provides most companies with the justification for implementing such programs. Some examples…

1ne: In a study done on the ROI of employee wellness programs, Harvard researchers conclude that, on average, for every dollar spent on employee wellness, medical costs fall $3.27 and absenteeism drops $2.73. This is a 6-to-1 return on investment.

2wo: A report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans determined that most North American employers saved $1 to $3 in their overall health care costs for every dollar spent on an employee wellness program. These savings come from direct costs, like workers’ compensation claims, and indirect costs, like improved retention and increased productivity.

3hree: According to the Rand Wellness Programs Study, the disease management component to the studied wellness program was responsible for 86 percent of the hard health care cost savings, generating $136 in savings per member, per month, and a 30 percent reduction in hospital admissions.

But that’s not enough. I feel that insurers need to get into the wellness business as well. They can’t sit idly by while their customers’ weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol go up. They need to be aggressive in communications with their unhealthy customers. This is the way to fight our reliance on prescription drugs.