Reducing Workers' Comp Costs Through Wellness Programs? What a Laugh!
By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & InsuranceŽ
CHICAGO---The best thing about laughter is that it's cheap. Holding laugher workshops don't cost companies an arm and a leg, and in tight economic times C-suite executives ought to be grateful for any antidote to inexorably higher costs.
Here are a few laughs from the personal collection of wellness and disability management experts Don R. Powell, president and CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine in Farmington Hills, Mich.
1. This afternoon there will be meetings in the north and south ends of the church, and children will be baptized at both ends.
2. All new sermons every Sunday. No summer reruns. 9:30 a.m. Jesus walks on water. 5:00 p.m. searching for Jesus.
3. Tonight's sermon is "What is Hell?" Come early and listen to the choir practice.
4. For sale: Second-hand tombstone. Excellent buy for someone named Murphy.
5. The ladies of the congregation have cast off clothing of every kind, and they may be seen in the basement of the synagogue on Friday afternoon.
6. The bean supper will be held on Saturday evening in the church basement. Music will follow.
7. Low self-esteem support group will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. Please use the back door.
8. Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.
9. For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
10. The associate minister unveiled the church's new giving campaign slogan last Saturday: I upped my pledge. Up yours!
All kidding aside, the importance to corporations of implementing a successful wellness program can go a long way toward slowing the cost increases of their group health plans as sedentary lifestyles and obesity take their toll on employee health.
Laughter, of course, should be just one part of a broader strategy workers' comp and disability managers can use to encourage workers to lead health lifestyles, said Powell, and companies already do plenty.
For example, 44 percent of companies offered health fairs, 41 percent offered health screening programs, and 33 percent offered health and lifestyle coaching programs, according to a 2008 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
More to the point, disability managers can implement "demand management" programs, said Powell. Such programs encourage workers to use doctors and hospitals more wisely to avoid the staggering amount of waste in healthcare usage.
As many as 55 percent, or 65.5 million of the 119.2 million emergency room visits, were unnecessary, according to the 2008 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. The same survey also found that as many as 25 percent or 227 million of the 906 million physician office visits were unnecessary.
With this kind of waste, is it any wonder that medical inflation has outstripped just about every other sector of the economy. In case readers needed reminding, here are the sober statistics on the price of medical inflation, courtesy of some 2007 research issued by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine.
If food prices had risen at the same rate as medical inflation over the past 80 years, a dozen eggs today would cost $80.20. A pound of apples would cost $12.23. A pound of sugar would cost $13.70. A roll of toilet paper would cost $24.20. A dozen oranges would cost $107.90. A pound of butter would cost $102.07. A pound of bananas would cost $16.04. A pound of bacon would cost $122.48. A pound of beef shoulder would cost $43.57; and a pound of coffee would cost $64.17.
Powell, a former two-pack-a-day smoker, said that a decade from now most successful companies will be those that help employees to make better healthcare decisions on their own about the usage of healthcare resources.
Given that such a small percentage of workers are responsible for such a large portion of the workers' comp and disability claims, companies that prevent low-risk employees from becoming high-risk employees and help high-risk employees become lower-risk employees will be most likely to come out ahead, Powell also said.
Powell spoke Friday during a session on integrated disability management on the final day of the 18th Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ & Expo in Chicago.
(Click here to read all of our other coverage from the
Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ
November 23, 2009
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