What a difference 19 years can make! I just received an email containing a report from Accident Fund explaining why workers’comp costs continue to rise. Besides fraud and inadequate pricing, one reason the report gave was our nation’s growing obesity rate. In 1994, not one state’s population had an obesity rate higher than 20%. Today, at least 12 states have an obesity rate of 30% or higher.
Obesity rates continue to increase nationwide at an alarming pace. The epidemic is creating increased complications for workers’ comp, as returning employees to work and full heath is more challenging when comorbidity factors are involved. Workers’ compensation medical claims and indemnity costs are five to 10 times higher for the most obese workers (Body Mass Index of 40+).
But would it actually benefit your organization to pay to instate an employee wellness program? In a nutshell, yes! As wellness provider Melissa Nordin puts it, “Onsite wellness programs ensure greater productivity in your company, lower overall health care costs, and reduce absenteeism by making an investment in your work force.” Nordin assures “a positive return on your investment (ROI) while providing services to insure the health and longevity of both your employees and your business. What could be more positive then providing activities that promote health and wellness?”
Your fellow employers agree that wellness programs are worth establishing, even if not everyone participates. Notes from the California Society for Healthcare Attorneys’ 2013 Annual Meeting & Spring Seminar on “Wellness Programs Under Health Reform” state that employers largely report that wellness programs are improving health and reducing costs. 65% of 2011 survey respondents that offered wellness programs stated that the programs improved health, and 53% believed that they reduced costs. (The notes also contain specific current legal information helpful to any organization considering starting a wellness program, so check them out.)
Different employers are offering health incentives to encourage their workers to adopt healthier lifestyles. An article from Harvard School of Public Health revealed that organizations like IBM, the state of Alabama, and Scott’s are serious about improving their employees’ health, by things such as “adopting no-tobacco policies on and off the job, offering cash-incentive payments and gift cards, reimbursing workers for gym memberships, providing free health coaching, and offering insurance-premium discounts to those who meet health standards.”
In this age of convenience and fast food with supersized portions, offering a health and wellness program may be more important than ever. And if that means your ROI is workers who are more engaged because of it, then it’s a win-win. What’s not to like about employees who are healthier, happier, and who show up ready to work?
By Marcianne Kuethen