The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has created enormous uncertainty for business owners. They’re unclear about what the law’s mandates will cost them in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 and what additional benefits will need to be provided. All they know is that these things will cost them more and that they’re going to be spending a significant amount of time and money in the foreseeable future.  

The most immediate strategy at this time are to control costs and maximize profitability. Therefore, the return on investment advantages of implementing company wellness programs must be harnessed.

Huge, hidden expenses exist in companies that are often not measured or discussed; the cost of absence, disability and lost productivity. In fact, personal illness accounts for 34 percent of unscheduled absences, often resulting in lost productivity and the need for higher headcounts, which leads to additional healthcare. It is imperative that companies place emphasis on their employees being healthy and productive as part of their planned profit models.

When employees come to work sick and are unable to perform at 100 percent, they are considered to be present on the job, but absent from being productive, referred to as presenteeism. More than ever, employees feel increased pressure to be at work, but they present a health risk to themselves and fellow workers by potentially spreading their illnesses. 

Here are four ways companies can lower their health care costs:

Wellness Consultant/Wellness Committees                                            

Consult an on-sight business provider of health and wellness programs, which offer a proactive approach to improved health for the individual, while minimizing costs for the company. Typical responsibilities of a wellness consultant include:

  • Conduct a Wellness Audit or Wellness Gap Analysis to review the current wellness strategy, offerings and procedures that may be available to employees
  • Survey preferences and specific wellness needs
  • Develop a health promotion operating plan, including a vision statement, goals, and objectives that use wellness as a business imperative
  • Assist in implementing, monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of the business health plan initiative

Tobacco-Free Company Initiative in the Workplace                                         

An American Productivity Audit found that tobacco use was a leading cause of worker lost production time. The North Carolina Prevention Partners’ Quit Now NC!: Tobacco Use & Quitting Facts study showed the #1 reason why people quit smoking is that their worksite has gone smoke-free. So, there is much opportunity for business leaders to help educate and motivate employees to adopt a smoke-free life. 

Workplace Obesity Prevention Program   

Workplace obesity prevention programs can be an effective way for business owners to reduce healthcare costs, eliminate presenteeism, lower absenteeism and increase employee productivity. Interventions might include the installation of bike racks on company property, facilitating physical activity, use of staircases, healthier food choices in cafeterias and vending machines and beginning to change company culture by establishing health improvement goals.

Health screenings/health risk assessments 

Health screenings and assessments often motivate workers to change unhealthy behaviors. Confidential blood tests offered frequently turn up opportunities for better living. Health screenings enable workers to learn about their current health status and determine risk for common diseases including diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other medical conditions. Workers can follow up to request a wellness program based on their immediate needs.

Companies that are fully committed to a comprehensive employee wellness program will often include:

  • Flu Shots
  • Immunizations
  • Health Fairs
  • Health Coaching
  • On-site Seminars
  • Biometric Screenings
  • Wellness Challenges with Incentives

ROI of Wellness

Companies have come to realize that healthy employees boost a company’s bottom line. A one dollar investment in wellness programs saves $3 in health care costs, according to the Wellness Council of America and according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 75 percent of employers’ healthcare costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices. 

While the effects of the new health care law remain uncertain, we do know that providing employees with the information and tools to adopt healthy behaviors will have huge payoffs. It is a good investment to keep the American workforce healthy and businesses profitable.