Magazine article Risk Management

Promoting Healthy Living

Magazine article Risk Management

Promoting Healthy Living

Article excerpt

Your smoking habit and high cholesterol aren't just costing you money -- they're affecting what your employer pays for employee healthcare coverage as well.

By offering managed health initiatives, employers are now becoming more actively involved in the health of their employees before they get sick. Employers have learned that by targeting employees at risk early, health-related costs can be contained.

According to a recent Hewitt Associates LLC survey of 1,050 employers, 89 percent of companies now have some type of managed health initiative in place, compared to 64 percent in 1992. These initiatives, which often include preventive care, health screening, education, counseling and disease prevention and management, are designed to enhance or maintain the health of an employer's covered population.

"Healthcare costs have become one of employers' most expensive outlays," says Camille Haltom, practice leader for health promotion at Hewitt Associates. "By helping employees stay healthy and productive, managed health initiatives are designed to reduce overall healthcare costs in the long term. And the best part is that employees benefit as well."

Most programs include at least one of the following elements:

* Education and training -- In 1996, 78 percent of employers with managed health initiatives reported using some type of training or education. Evolving beyond traditional classes and workshops, education now includes individual counseling on treatment compliance or lifestyle habits that contribute to chronic or acute conditions.

* Health risk appraisals-twenty-five percent of employers administer a health risk appraisal through a questionnaire geared to analyze a person's health history and promote early detection of preventable health conditions. In some cases, employees must complete a health risk appraisal to be eligible for healthcare coverage. Of the 25 percent of employers that administer appraisals, 42 percent do so annually, 13 percent every other year, 5 percent every three years and 34 percent conduct them periodically.

* Health screenings-Seventy-six percent of employers offer health risk assessments, such as cholesterol or blood pressure checks, designed to identify health risks early.

* Financial incentives/disincentives -- Employers offering some type of financial incentive or disincentive are on the rise, with 39 percent using that type of initiative in 1996, compared to 14 percent in 1992. …

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