Are you financing illness or promoting health? If you removed all the financial components of your health insurance plan – what does your message of health actually look like?
This is an important question to ask as we consider the rising cost of healthcare and employees’ demand for comprehensive coverage. The financing of healthcare is real. And we know that robust benefits are a competitive advantage for employers. This is especially the case in a competitive labor market and an economy with escalating inflation. But it’s not the big picture.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of employer-sponsored healthcare plans. Before the 1940s, individuals paid for their own medical costs. Some higher-risk professions like mining and railroads offered company doctors or had infirmaries on site. This might be considered the beginning of businesses getting involved in healthcare. But the real game changer was after the 1942 Stabilization Act when a wage freeze across the country prompted employers to find creative ways to attract workers. Employers started offering health benefits as an incentive, and the IRS made health insurance tax-free. Basically, the government indirectly encouraged businesses to offer company-sponsored health coverage. From day one, the whole thing was really a financial decision.
As employers, you need to consider how guiding people toward a healthy continuum is better for your employees and for your bottom lines. We want to avoid the downward spiral when a person goes from healthy to at-risk to chronic to complex. When we concentrate on health, we’re taking a proactive approach. But when cost is the sole focus, we’re ultimately financing illness. Today, employers are still focused on the financing of healthcare and not necessarily health. The World Health Organization offers a simple definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. Today, employers contribute to this definition by entering into a contract for an employee to provide x number of hours to complete x number of tasks for x number of dollars. In addition to this trade, employers also make available other benefits or finance other services like health insurance. How would the workplace culture and environment change for the better if we looked at health vs healthcare financing? What if we looked at improving health first and then added the financial piece to the decision-making process? Would we do things differently? The time has come to think about health first and health financing second because when people are well, they are less likely to experience unexpected medical events that can result in ER visits, surgery, ongoing medication, and time off work. By creating a workplace culture and environment that promotes healthy behaviors, we are doing more for employees by supporting their well-being. And the ancillary financial benefit is reducing healthcare expenses. The simplest things can make a great impact.
Here are some points to consider: • As employers, how do you truly support the health of your employees? • How do you support the prevention of illness? • What can you actually do so your insurance is truly a safety net “just in case” and your benefits are resources that support a person’s whole health?