Employee Wellness Likely to Survive Battle Over Health Care Reform

Employee Wellness Likely to Survive Battle Over Health Care Reform

Okay, the current healthcare reform legislation may have slowed down, but it’s not over yet. Whether its tort reform, the ability to buy your insurance from another state, or an over-haul on medicare, one definite area that is being looked at by employers is employee - wellness and prevention. This issue is one that will be more on everyone’s radar because it consistently draws bipartisan support.

As we covered in an earlier post, the Healthy Workforce Act, written by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would give you an annual $200 tax credit for each of the first 200 employees participating in your small biz wellness program and $100 for each additional employee.

In addition, the Partnership for Prevention found that worksite wellness produced an average savings-to-cost ratio of $5.81 to $1. The programs also reduced annual health costs by an average of 26 percent, reduced absenteeism by 27 percent, and reduced workers compensation and disability claim costs by 32 percent.

Comprehensive wellness programs usually end up being cost neutral in year one. Year two is when you start seeing return on investment, and by the time you get to three years, things really start kicking in and you really do see ROI.

We are still waiting to hear whether or not this proposed billed makes its way to the President’s desk, but in the mean while think about this:

  • An estimated 142 million Americans are overweight or obese, this represents 66 percent of the adult population.
  • Health care costs in the United States doubled from 1990 to 2001 and are expected to double again by 2012.
  • Chronic illnesses affect more than a third of working-age Americans and the costs associated with chronic diseases account for approximately 75 percent of the nation’s annual health care costs.
  • Obesity costs American companies $225.8 billion per year in health related productivity losses. An obese employee costs the employer an additional $460-$2,500 in medical expenditures and absenteeism annually.
  • The workplace environment is a significant target for obesity prevention efforts. Over 130 million Americans are employed across the United States and spend a significant part of their day at work. Sedentary jobs have increased 83 percent since 1950.
  • The Healthy Workforce Act provides employers with the means to implement evidence-based strategies for improving the health of workers by addressing causes of chronic disease including obesity, physical inactivity and tobacco use.
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