Should Companies Charge Less Fit Employees More for Insurance? (Melissa Schwarz)

The cost of health insurance is through the roof, and everyone is feeling the crunch.

Some US companies, though, are trying some new things to help rein in those costs and get employees to shoulder more of the responsibility. Now, instead of simply filling out a form and checking off what they want or need, employees are required to submit to a blood test, health questionnaire and, at some businesses, agree to participate in healthy activities to get lower premiums.

In a story from the Associated Press, companies are doing everything from offering lower premiums to workers who participate in wellness programs to limiting the types of plans available to smokers or overweight and obese employees.

“Employers are overwhelmingly recognizing that if they are ever going to get their arms around health care costs, they have to start by getting their employee population healthier,” Jim Winkler is quoted in the story. He is a representative from Aon Hewitt, a benefits consulting firm.

Businesses often hire a third party to administer and run testing and wellness programs to keep personal information away from the company Human Resources department. This way, private data stays private and the company only knows if an employee qualifies for a price break or not depending on their participation in programs.

In 2010, more than half of Wisconsin adults were considered overweight or obese, a whopping 63.6 percent, in fact. Further, 25 percent of Wisconsin high school students are considered overweight or obese.

Rising rates of overweight and obese citizens contributes to higher healthcare costs. A study from the Centers for Disease Control found that obese patients spent $1,429 more for their healthcare than their more healthy counterparts. That same study also found that in 2006, there was increased spending across the board for Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers alike for overweight and obese patients.

And while being overweight or obese isn’t the only reason healthcare costs are on the rise, certainly we can connect some of the dots that by getting health under control also leads to getting healthcare costs under control as well. The healthier a person is, the less medical attention they require and that brings costs down for everyone.

 

(Melissa Schwarz)

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About internalmarket

This blog and its accompanying Twitter account have been established as social media learning tools for the Internal Communications and Employee Engagement class at Columbia College Chicago. Through this blog, we will share our observations about current events, change management and employee communications theory, and the application of social media in shaping employee engagement.
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