Wellness Programs Even More Important with Healthcare Reform
Increasingly more companies are employing wellness initiatives to their employee benefits, as it makes good business sense. A survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, found that one-third of companies offered employees incentives for completing specific health activities. Nearly 20%, for example, provide a discount for not smoking, 15% offer discounts for participating in a wellness program, and 9% provided healthcare premium discounts for partaking in a weight-loss program.
Why the incentives? It’s in the numbers. For every dollar an employer spends on a wellness program, they see a reduction of medical costs by $3.27 and absenteeism costs by $2.73, according to a Health Affairs report. You get healthier, happier, and more productive employees who have fewer health-related issues in addition to fewer workplace injuries.
What’s more workplace wellness is even more important as reforms from Affordable Care Act come into play. Wellness plays a prominent role in healthcare reform as the Act as of 2014 allows large employers to tie a significant percentage of health spending to employee health behavior and provides direct subsidies for small businesses to undertake these workplace wellness programs. Under the Act, small businesses (with fewer than 100 employees who work 25 or more hours per week on average) that did not have a workplace wellness program in effect as of March 2010 are eligible for grants to start such programs.
How can a company help promote employee health? Here are some suggestions:
- Company-subsidize weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers, or hosting on-site meetings before or after work or during lunch. When employees share a common goal, they can help one another achieve those goals through camaraderie.
- Provide low-calorie lunches and/or snacks on a regular basis. This will depend on the size of the company and what you can provide – it can be one a week.
- Fitness – either organizing employee group walks during lunch, or if possible, create an on-site fitness center with free weights, stair climbers, and treadmills. Some companies may offer a discount to a gym.
- Smoking Cessation Program Subsidy in the form of self-help materials, telephone-based counseling services, access to online smoking cessation support.
- Access to information through a company-sponsored newsletter or bulletin that features local events (5k runs), healthy restaurants, and information on staying on a healthy lifestyle track.
It’s important for any wellness program to have company-wide support in order to work. A wellness committee should be formed with someone spearheading the efforts (whether it’s an in-house endeavor, working with the healthcare provider, or using a wellness vendor). Be sure to gather data and information on the overall needs of the company and each individual’s needs (which can be accomplished through a confidential personal assessment profile). This will help form the foundation for planning and evaluating activities to ensure that the wellness program meets the company’s needs. And be sure there is an action plan in place.
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