Published on: December 5, 2006The Wall Street Journal writes this morning that “a growing number of companies in recent years have sought to cut medical costs by integrating so-called wellness programs into their health-care coverage. Though many programs are still in their early stages, a number of them are starting to show some positive results -- both in terms of cost savings for employers and improved health for employees.”
These programs can take the form of free or low-cost health screenings. “Some companies have installed on-site medical clinics to encourage workers to seek preventive care,” the Journal writes. “Other companies require that workers undergo health-risk assessments in order to qualify for medical coverage. Employees deemed at risk, for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, might then receive a phone call from a nurse suggesting follow-up action.”
What’s intriguing about this trend is that it marks a departure from recent history, when companies actually sought to control costs by limiting access to specific doctors and facilities…a move that seemed not to be working since even as they did so, many of these same companies were complaining about the rising cost of health care. Fresh evidence – by no means complete, but compelling – suggests that “early detection and intervention will save money in the long run, especially for chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”
- KC's View:
- We think that companies that pay people good salaries and/or expect them to work hard and smart have every right to expect that these people take care of themselves…and would be wise to help them do so easily, rather than make it harder for them.
After all, we always argue that companies should treat their employees like an investment rather than as a cost – but this cuts both ways. If a company invests in an employee, that also means it has every right to expect both a short-term and a long-term return.
We suggested a long time ago that Wal-Mart, for example, ought to try the “Northern Exposure” approach to employee health care – put a bunch of people through medical school in exchange for several years of service taking care of employees throughout its retail system.