Thursday, May 22, 2008

Healthy At Work: Wellness Panel Explains Bottom Line

“As the cost of health care continues to climb, many businesses find that preventing problems through company wellness initiatives cuts costs, or at least reduces the severity of increase. Wellness programs can range from tips on better health habits to retaining lifestyle coaches, tapping interactive Web resources and establishing benefits policies with incentives for healthier lifestyles. Money and culture are two of the biggest challenges to starting healthy programs in the workplace, according to a panel of wellness program professionals. Health-care costs in the U.S. amount to $2.3 trillion and account for 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Research shows that keeping employees healthy with preventive programs saves health-care costs. A University of Michigan Health Management Research Center study shows the medical costs for a 45- to 54-year-old in a low health risk profile at $2,081, compared to high risk at $5,813, not including productivity loss, time off work and other business costs. Wellness programs can cost as little as $50 per person annually to as much as $400 per person, and more. Participation incentives are also often used and can cost more than the programs themselves.”