THE WELLNESS REVOLUTION: AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

Who would have thought that Ben Franklin’s famous words, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, would have started the Wellness Revolution?

The Wellness Revolution has taught us about nutrition and exercise and challenges us to embrace healthier lifestyles. It also preaches the importance of preventive care and services such as routine physical exams and immunizations. Taking advantage of these services is a necessary step that we can take to ensure our health and wellness.

Today, just about half of Americans receive health insurance through their place of employment. In fact, data collected through Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys (MEPS) shows us that 49.9 percent of U.S. employers offer health insurance to employees. If almost half the people in this country are relying on employment-based health care, doesn’t it mean that employers have an obligation to educate their employees on health care plans and services? Employers can teach their employee population to manage their health, which will also assist in managing the overall medical expenses of the organization.

Health care can be a very difficult subject to navigate for any company. There are several important steps that employers can take to help employees understand and manage their own personal health and medical spend. Let’s focus on three areas that that can help employees manage their health conditions and the amount of money they spend on medical care.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ben Franklin coined this phrase in 1736 and, while his focus was on fire prevention, it also rings true today in the world of wellness.

Why? Because the Wellness Revolution is partially built on the idea of preventing illness through healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes. There are a multitude of wellness providers and experts, but do employees really understand the correlation between healthy living and reduced health care expenses?

Wellness companies will repeatedly tell you that their goal is to move employees into the zone in which they don’t need medical care. Wellness companies teach us that by continually focusing on preventive visits, hard-dollar costs for employers and employees are reduced greatly. Examples of preventive care include: biometric screenings, stress management programs, smoking cessation classes, diabetic treatment plans, weight management and health risk assessments. These services are offered by most health care plans and create a win-win situation for the employer and employee.

Look at the recent outbreak in measles in the United States and the controversy over vaccinations for children. There is direct correlation between the fact that measles vaccinations reduce the number of measles cases, which reduces the cost of treatment and the exponential nature of exposure. In fact, the measles were nearly eradicated in the U.S. as a result of the vaccination.

Here’s a list of some other preventive screenings that are free! These services are designed to detect an illness at an early stage, which dramatically increases the probability of recovery while also decreasing the cost of treatment. This abbreviated list represents services that all health care plans must offer as dictated by our government.

“Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.”

Public figures, promoters and salesmen have used this phrase, which is rooted in the teachings of Aristotle, to discuss the art of public speaking and how to effectively present to a crowd. Many employers might be saying, “We already provide wellness and preventive information to employees during open enrollment.” The fact is that providing this information only once a year is simply not enough.

Remind employees about disease management. There is nothing worse than putting together a great plan and never executing it. Employees who are managing chronic conditions must take medical care plans and treatment seriously, as outlined by their physicians. If an employee is inflicted with a chronic disease like high blood pressure or diabetes, they must manage the disease daily. Implementing the treatment plan they have been given is just as important as getting the plan in the first place. Employees with chronic diseases need to continuously monitor their illnesses. This can be done through frequent blood pressure tests, or blood work or lab work prescribed by their physicians. Reminding employees to manage their chronic conditions on a frequent basis is critical to successful disease management.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

We’ve all heard this adage at some point in our lives, usually from a parent or grandparent. Employers are in a unique position to take that old saying one step further. It’s one thing to say “an apple a day,” it’s another thing entirely to explain it, to tell someone just exactly how that apple keeps the doctor away.

Teaching health care consumerism is a challenge because it seems so foreign. Employers must take the time to explain what health care consumerism is and how employee can embrace it. How can employers present and define health care consumerism to employees? The power lies in giving relatable examples. Give an introductory lesson on what it means to be a good health care consumer. Explain the benefits and give examples on how to put it into practice.

Educating your employees on your health care plans will allow them to overcome the anxiety and fear sometimes associated with seeking medical attention.

Provide employees with a few helpful hints:

1. Make your “wellness” visit appointment.

When you make your doctor’s appointment, tell the intake staff that this is an annual “wellness” visit. When you arrive at the doctor’s office, you might have to remind the intake assistant that because this is a well visit, there is no co-insurance payment due nor does this visit require meeting a deductible.

2. Approach health care with confidence.

Many of us might be intimidated by medical professionals and lose the confidence to ask pertinent questions. Not only do we sometimes forget to ask questions about our health condition, we get tongue-tied when the doctor informs us of the tests or labs that he/she believes we should undergo. Don’t be afraid to question the necessity of additional testing.

3. A confident health care consumer should feel empowered to ask the doctor for a generic prescription.

The price difference between brand prescriptions and generic ones can be astronomical. If the doctor doesn’t suggest generic, the patient simply needs to ask. Of course, there are situations where no generic prescription is available. In cases like this, notify employees that they can request mail order for the prescription. Maintenance drugs can be prescribed by mail order and, in most cases are cheaper. Most physicians, if asked, will write two prescriptions for patients, one for an immediate fill at a pharmacy and a second one for mail order. It’s a plan administrator’s job to help the employees feel secure in asking.

Employers should also provide employees with some basic questions to ask the doctor:

• Is the medicine you prescribed a generic? If the answer is no, ask if there is a generic one that you can prescribe for your condition?

• Can you please write two prescriptions for me, one that I can fill immediately at the pharmacy and one for my mail order prescription plan?

4. Repeat the above and call me in the morning.

In the end, much of an employers’ success lies in education. Employers need to put in the time and effort to educate and train their employee populations. The more educated employees become the healthier they can be, and the better they can manage their own medical spend. This in turn allows employers to better manage their company’s medical spend.

Conclusion

As you strive to educate employees on health care, make sure not to cloud or confuse messages. Stick to the key topics above and engage your workforce in some open discussions that will help them understand and ask questions about the health plans being offered. The goal as an employer should be to educate your employees and create a work force of better health care consumers.

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