The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

March 22, 2013

Wellness reviews can save money

Last week a state judge struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in a move that was applauded by some and booed by others. Those who saw Bloomberg’s ban as an overreach and a violation of personal freedom were more than happy. Those concerned with footing the healthcare bill for an increasingly obese society were frustrated at what they saw as a step in the wrong direction.

Now, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS, wants its employees to undergo a voluntary “wellness review.” It is a move the company hopes can create a healthier workforce to the benefit of the employees and help cut costs related to healthcare expenses as well.

CVS will pay for the health screenings, but those who do not have screening done will have to pay a $600 penalty each year they do not.

Healthcare for employees is always a huge expense for businesses. For that reason, it is always one of the first topics to come up in a job interview or contract negotiations. Employers want to pass on the expense; employees want to pay a smaller share. It is a never-ending back and forth.

One way companies have tried to approach the problem is by trying to create a healthier workforce with preventative care, essentially staying in front of the problem before it becomes a problem. It is common practice today. A 2012 study showed that nearly 20 percent of employers asked workers to take such steps, but a smaller percentage of those companies penalize workers for not participating.

Geisinger Health System is trying to set an example. Several years ago, it announced it would no longer hire employees who smoked. It was a move Geisinger said was to improve both the health of its employees and the environment for its patients.

Some will say companies are overstepping their bounds, worrying too much about employees’ private lives and what they do after hours on their own free time. That is a legitimate concern because individual privacy is possibly the next great fight in this country.

As long as businesses are not using health data to discriminate against certain employees, helping employees remain healthy, and thus able to be productive on a consistent basis, is one way to manage costs more effectively.

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