Shifting health benefits

July 21, 2009
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The end of sweeping cuts in employee health benefits and the beginning of another trend is in sight, says Mike Miles, vice president and senior benefits consultant at Gregory & Appel Insurance.

Employers have slashed benefits so deeply that the cuts are starting to backfire. One example is co-pays. Shift enough of the cost to workers and they become reluctant to spend their own money to see a doctor. Then the chances of nipping big â?? read expensive â?? problems in the bud become more difficult.

Some companies, particularly in certain industries, will continue reducing benefits, Miles says, but the overall push is losing steam.

Now employers are turning to actively encouraging workers to take better care of themselves, with an emphasis on â??actively.â?? Some are beginning to offer discounts on insurance to show up for health screenings, and incentives and coaching to get healthy.

In some cases, companies are bringing screenings and other health offerings to the work place â?? anything to cajole employees to take action.

â??You canâ??t penalize people,â?? Miles says. â??They have to do something, so theyâ??re looking at strategies.â??

How do you feel about this? If your work place offers these benefits, do you use them? Would you if they were offered?
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  • We've seen great results in allowing our employees to compete against each other in quarterly wellness contests. Our consultant at Mavum designed a strategic approach for implementing this plan. This year we've entered the healthiest employer contest with our group and look forward to competing with other employers of our size to see how we stack up.
  • Excellent program! We need more of this type of incentive to stem the lard-butt disease floushing in Indiana.
  • oops - flourishing
  • Sorry, I quit going to the doctor when they raised my deductible to $4800. What's the point in free screenings if you can't afford to treat the disease??? Our family's insurance is just that.... insurance in the case of a catastrophic illness or injury. For prevention we count on diet, exercise and genetics.
  • Kris,

    That is what health insurance used to be before the unions started demanding coverage for doctor visits, prescription medicine and incidentals. Corporations started caving in and others fell in line. That is what started, and is largely responsible for, 50% of the costs we incur today.

    Unfortunately, we all are going to have to get used to health care insurance being just that - coverage for catastrophic costs. And if this government thinks they can do otherwise and not totally bankrupt the US, they're nuts - well they're that anyway......
    • First of all, not providing primary care for everybody costs everybody more in the long run. You cannot limit costs if diseases are not caught early through regular visits and screenings. The most significant costs in healthcare are when diseases are advanced.

      Secondly, every one of us is already paying for the uninsured. People need to drop the idea that we are not. You are paying for the uninsured through your property tax bill and your high deductibles right now. You are caring for the them in the most expensive manner by not giving them primary care and seeing them in the ER when they are decompensating from poorly managed chronic diseases.

      Third, wellness programs are great and should be encouraged. They don't help a lot if you have cancer or a genetically based disease. Then, you need regular access to a doctor who you can afford to see.
    • People need to rely upon themselves to manage their routine health care costs. A very base minority in terms of numbers should be relying on humane care. All of those that have an expectation of using the federal teet for their health care have been led down this path by the cycle of dependency upon the Federal Government. This was fostered under the Roosevelt administration and continued in many forms by Congress since that time.

      Is it any wonder we are in the mess we are in especially after Congress refused to act to secure our pourous borders?
    • Urrrrrgh!!! BerwickGuy, If only the whole wold was perfect like you!

      I think it's a great idea for employers to do everything they can to encourage employees to be healthy. If employees are healthy, they will be more apt to come to work and produce. Everybody is happy, right?
    • Lois,

      Please, I have no illusions about being anything close to perfect. I have nothing more than some knowledge and many opinions. Why is it always wrong or hateful for conservative opinions to be expressed?

      As you state, I agree it is always right for employers to engage programs to enable employees to better themselves. Unfortunately, many people just won't motivate themselves to improve or be consistent about it. When they do, more power to them.

      I just get tired of people expecting as if it is a right for the federal government to provide such things as health care to all citizens. That was never the intention of the founding fathers and, frankly, we can't afford it now, regardless of how unfair that may sound. That's not hate, it's just pragmatism.
    • BerwickGuy, I don't recall the constitution saying that health care is only a privilege for the employed either. The notion of tying the two together is ludicrous.
    • AJ - Wasn't my implication that health care was only for the employed. My brother, for example, has Cerebral Palsy, which by its nature is considered uninsurable by today's standards. He has, however, private insurance through a major medical provider even though he is on Medicaid. My apologies if that was what you perceived.
    • Berwick - I actually often agree with your overall point of view and take on things. However I think you need to know your audience on here. Maybe if you deliver your message less intensely others will be more apt to read it and possibly consider it. Personally I prefer your bluntness.... but clearly it causes others to shut off. Just a suggestion. As far as health care we are all paying for everyone now. I don't think increasing government involvement is ever a good idea....just look at how EVERYTHING they touch is floundering now. People should have access to healthcare, but not the abuse that exists now. I used to work in pharmacy, and it was ALWAYS the medicaid patients that were on 10 to 16 different medications. Doctors need to stop pandoring to these particular offenders.... however then they would get in trouble for discrimination I am sure. Our whole system is setup to take advantage of the hard workers and cater to those who put in minimal to no effort. That said there is always a segment of folks who truly need help... and am all for that. I say fix the programs that defunct that we already have. Use that savings to bolster the other programs. THEN consider the idea of creating new programs.

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