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Why the right wellness programs are so important

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Today’s workforce is spending more time at work than ever before. The hours are longer, which contributes to lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and overall decline in health and wellbeing. Many advisors agree it has been a challenge to get small businesses to take any initiative in developing wellness programs for their employees. But with instances of chronic, preventable diseases like diabetes increasing by more than 41 percent over the past five years, burdening our nation with an estimated $245 billion in expenses, brokers have an obligation to help insurance companies curtail our nation’s spending on this epidemic. This is especially true given that 34 percent of that $245 billion is currently being managed by private insurance companies.  

For the past few years, I have worked closely with insurance companies by promoting their on-site wellness screenings. This provides employees with specific tests that can detect the early stages of diabetes. Recently, a client of mine hosted an on-site, employee wellness fair. This included health screenings testing employees’ glucose, and A1C readings. Out of the 45 employees who participated in this screening, three were diagnosed as pre-diabetic.

So, how much impact will these three affected employees have on the overall healthcare spending of their company?  

Studies show that an employee with diabetes will have healthcare costs averaging $13,243.00 annually, while an employee without diabetes will have healthcare costs of about $2,560.00 annually. This deviation of expenditure should provide plenty of incentive for any company to explore alternative lifestyle management programs that focus resources on affected employees.

If brokers continue to recommend traditional wellness strategies alone, such as health risk assessments and biometric screenings, brokers will continue without success. These methods cannot truly reduce expenditure brought on by chronic disease, and burdensome costs will continue to rise.  

Any employee who finds out they may be diagnosed diabetic needs to work one-on-one with a coach, or intimate support group. Thus, the focus can be on health education, and results-based goal-setting to make life-saving improvements in health. An employee may save their life, and save their company hundreds of thousands of dollars over a decade of employment. This would lower two types of cost, tangible and intangible.

Now, more brokers are exploring self-funded medical policies that return premiums to employer groups, who in turn are able to keep employees’ healthcare spending low. The numbers alone provide a strong impetus for any company to develop new initiatives for chronic disease prevention. It is imperative that brokers take an active role in assisting their clients — opening their eyes to this national crisis, and working with them to formulate a preventive health strategy in their workplace today.