As many employers know, healthcare costs and related insurance premiums have been rising steadily over the past two decades at a rate of 10-15% annually. Our nation’s total health care costs are expected to hit $4 trillion by 2015 according to The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ estimates. That projection was made prior to the passage of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which extends coverage to many more people and places even more of a burden on businesses to shoulder additional healthcare insurance costs. That said, employers should be instituting various initiatives to help raise employee awareness regarding healthcare costs and to encourage healthier behaviors. Through health information education on everything from price transparency and common medical procedures, to wellness initiatives, employers can gain some control. Following are best practices to consider:
• Educate employees regarding the importance of preventative medical screening/testing and annual check-ups based on the American Medical Association’s latest recommendations.
• Help contain employee fear of medical tests by educating them on what is involved in common procedures such as biopsies, echocardiography, endoscopy, imaging, pulmonary function tests, reflex tests and stress tests.
• Sponsor lunchtime seminars on health and well-being. For example, a nutritionist can provide information on vitamins and their role in well-being as well as the healthy food choices (e.g., salmon, soy, green vegetables, berries and whole grains) and their role in healthy, long living. Or, invite a local chef to present health menu ideas.
• Encourage employees’ participation in various fitness events and programs (e.g., fun runs, walk-a-thons, Zumba classes, yoga and Pilates, etc.) by negotiating discounts with local providers.
• Reward employees who have turned a leaf in their own well-being by losing weight, quitting a bad habit such as smoking, or met a personal goal such as running a marathon, joining a volleyball team, etc.