Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Getting Healthy, With a Little Help From the Boss

“Get ready to get well. Boss’s orders. Once upon a time, corporations offered generous health benefits as a way to woo employees into their ranks. Now, most companies have turned from amorous suitors into stern parents — shifting more costs, and more responsibilities, to their employees. According to a January survey by the benefits consulting firm Hewitt Associates, nearly two-thirds of large employers planned to transfer more costs to employees. At the same time, one-third planned to put greater emphasis on wellness plans — programs that encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. (So long, Big Macs). Congress is climbing onto the wellness bandwagon, too. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is a leader of the Congressional health reform movement, recently proposed giving tax incentives to companies that offer comprehensive wellness programs to their employees. The focus on healthier lifestyles makes sense. Unhealthy employees use significantly more medical services than healthy ones and cost employers more money. ‘If you are an employer who wants to keep providing health care coverage, you have to target employees’ exercise, diet and nutrition habits’, says Dr. Kenneth E. Thorpe, chairman of the health policy and management department at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.


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