Insured workers in the U.S. are cost-sensitive to health care. The recession has been negatively impacting workers’ health: physically, emotionally, financially.

However, there may be a silver lining here: that workers are making health improvement a greater priority than they did in 2008.

The National Business Group on Health’s
report on The Recession’s Toll on Employees’ Health presents results of a survey among workers age 22 to 64, finding good news amidst the not-so-good: that while some employees choose not to receive health treatment to save money on out-of-pocket costs, large percentages of workers are trying to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles to improve their health bottom lines.

And, 2/3 of people are saving more in 2009, which can help tame personal financial stress. This is an important response because 40% of workers told NBGH that mental health – including stress and anxiety – is worse since the economic downturn. Among those, 40% said they’ve taken action to improve their mental states.

Several of the most important findings in the survey are:

– 52% of workers say cost has the most influence when choosing a health plan – with people earning less than $75K indicating cost as a larger influence
– 25% of workers who switched health plans did so to reduce their annual premium
– 3 in 4 employees say they’ve become more aware of the total cost of health care in the past year
– 58% of people are surprised at their out-of-pocket costs
– 68% of employees say having access to health benefits is a key reason for staying in their job
– 2 in 3 workers whose employees offer financial incentives say it’s motivated them to try healthier lifestyles
– 58% believe smokers should pay higher premiums
– 46% believe obese people should pay higher premiums.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
NBGH points to two key areas where employers can help workers better manage health in the midst of the recession: exercise (which the Group calls the “silver bullet” to control costs) and mental health.

This report reveals the important link between the fiscal and the physical which is one of the philosophical underpinnings of Health Populi. NBGH’s recommendation for employers to promote an enterprise-wide culture of health and to get more targeted in communicating and ‘nudging’ workers to healthier lifestyles would surely benefit the Health of the People.
As yesterday’s post asserted, Americans may be thinking healthy but not acting healthy, it’s all about health engagement. Awareness of total costs and benefits of health behaviors — communicated in ways that personally touch people — can help to focus and motivate the consumers of health services.