About 15% of employers who provide health care to employees plan to cut benefits in the next 12 months, according to a survey of U.S. CFOs and comptrollers chief financial officers and senior comptrollers conducted by Grant Thornton.

On the other hand, there is a large portfolio of cases where employers are creatively addressing employee health management. A new report from the Business Roundtable has found that Doing Well Through Wellness really pays off.

BR surveyed their member companies (which include 160 jumbo and large companies that cover 35 million Americans and collectively generate $4.5 trillion in annual revenues). BR found that the most successful outcomes were found in those who didn’t only provide a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) — they integrated that financial strategy with a wellness, health promotion and/or disease management initiative. While this makes common sense, there is a plethora of companies who simply implement a CDHPs and leave the other side of the equation (duh, health) open-ended. Closing that circle can realize benefits health-wise, and fiscally, too.

There’s a three-legged approach that is consistent across successful heath-promoting employers:

1. Create a culture of wellness in the company
2. Focus on the health of each employee, with customized interventions that are relevant to the employee at risk
3. Build the business case for wellness by measuring — tracking costs, health outcomes and calculating a meaningful ROI.

Remember that Business Roundtable is part of the Divided We Fail alliance between AARP, SEIU (the service employees union), and NFIB (the association for small business). This effort unites stakeholders who have historically sat “across the table” from each other in labor and benefit negotiations. Their mantra: “We must act and we must act now. If we don’t, the next generation will be the first in American history to be less well off than their parents.”

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
The companies who have the most successful health outcomes among employees integrate consumerism with tools that enable employees to be….consumers. These companies don’t see the spending in these programs as sunk costs, but as an investment. As a director of benefits at Corning, Inc., a member of BR, said, “We don’t consider it a cost because the net effect is to improve health, reduce overall health care costs and improve productivity, impacting the bottom line.” This is the value of thinking about employees as human capital, not as fungible disposables. Read more about human capital from one of my economist-heroes, Nobel laureat Gary Becker.

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