Why your company needs a wellness program
Scott H. Lawson is the founder and president of The Scott Lawson Companies. He holds a MS in Industrial Hygiene, has over 40 years’ experience and has worked in over 5,000 companies.
A lot of companies these days talk about having a company wellness program, but very few know what a real wellness program looks like, and even fewer decide to do something meaningful about it.
Most companies will point to their health insurance provider as their wellness program administrator. This “program” generally includes a discount at a health club or a credit for completing a health risk assessment along with a website to suggest to them ways to be healthier. The problem is that this is not a program. In most cases, when this type of wellness program is provided, the only employees who take advantage of it are the healthier workers who already go to the gym, while those that need the program the most are not incentivized enough to make a lifestyle change.
The general purpose of a comprehensive employee wellness program should be twofold. The first is to get employees to become healthier. This can only be accomplished with a comprehensive program of educating workers so they understand the value of being healthier. Becoming healthier includes living a lifestyle comprised of smart eating choices and routine exercise.
The second purpose is to make workers better consumers of health care. An MRI in the state of New Hampshire can cost as little as several hundred dollars or as much as $3,000 to $4,000, depending upon where the patient goes for the service. If an employee has some skin in the game, through a high deductible health savings account or similar vehicle, they will often choose to go a few miles further to save several hundred or even a few thousand dollars. Less money out of pocket for the employee translates to lower cost for the employer come renewal time.
Having been in the wellness arena for almost a decade, the majority of the health issues we see are diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other chronic issues related to obesity and smoking in particular. All of these issues can be controlled, to some degree, through smoking cessation programs, better nutrition and regular exercise. These are the primary drivers for a wellness program.
Once employees begin to understand that they can save money on their own co-pays for medical treatments and maintenance drugs, they become motivated to make lifestyle changes. They can learn to save money on prescription medications until they get to the point where they do not need them at all. Once employees understand that they have some control over their own costs, wonderful things begin to happen.
Success in these areas is not always immediate, but once one or two people manage to lose weight, quit smoking or save $50 or more a month on prescription co-pays, others start to get engaged. We call this traction. The system starts to feed on itself, because as more and more employees have success, more and more people become engaged, and the cycle continues. Taking the first step is the hardest part. Please reach out to us if you are ready to take that first step for you and your employees.
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