We were out with friends recently who were talking about their company's health program that tests their employees’ health and fitness levels and charges their monthly health insurance contributions accordingly. This means the fitter you are, the less you pay every month. The couple work for the same company and the husband thinks the program is great – the wife does not. Both maintain a very healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly and eat well. He thinks some people need a big push to force them into living well and this is one way to do it. She thinks it’s none of the company’s business.
But both joined this ‘voluntary’ program because they pay less than their co-workers who smoke, are over-weight or generally unhealthy. I use quotation marks around the word ‘voluntary’ because one might question how voluntary it is, when you are punished financially if you don’t take part.
The truth is that unhealthy employees cost their employers more money that their fitter counterpart. They take more sick days, are less productive and have higher health care costs. However, it’s also true that smoking is not illegal and if someone wants to have a soda pop and fast food meal for lunch every day, that’s their right.
CNN did a recent story on something similar – a company in Nebraska adopted a program 16 years ago to encouraging it’s employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.
“Lincoln Industries has three full-time employees devoted to "wellness," and offers on-site massages and pre-shift stretching.
Most unusual of all: The company requires all employees to undergo quarterly checkups measuring weight, body fat and flexibility. It also conducts annual blood, vision and hearing tests.
"When you get the encouragement from somebody to help you with nutrition and to help with a more active lifestyle, it makes it easier to be able to attain a lifestyle that most people want to attain anyway," says Hank Orme, president of Lincoln Industries.
The company ranks workers on their fitness, from platinum, gold and silver down to "non-medal." To achieve platinum, they must reach fitness goals and be nonsmokers and the company offers smoking cessation classes.
For employees, reaching platinum means a three-day, company-paid trip each summer to climb a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado. This year, 103 qualified, the most ever. And 70 made the climb.
For the company, the payoff is significantly lower health-care costs. The company pays less than $4,000 per employee, about half the regional average and a savings of more than $2 million. That makes the $400,000 Lincoln Industries spends each year on wellness a bargain. Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta on wellness at work »
"The return on investment is extraordinary," Orme says.
The investment in "wellness" pays other dividends, according to Orme. He says fitter workers are more productive, have better morale and are safer. As evidence, he points to worker's compensation claims. Ongoing safety training and an increasingly fit workforce have pushed worker's comp costs down from $500,000 five years ago to less than $10,000 so far this year.
Seven years ago, shift leader Howard Tegtmeier was in the non-medal category. The 49-year-old smoked, drank, was overweight and took 12 pills a day to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
"I just made the decision it was time to change my life, and the wellness program showed me ways to do that," Tegtmeier says.
Tegtmeier says he no longer smokes or drinks. His weight is down from 230 to 180, thanks to diet and exercise. His cholesterol and blood pressure are also down, and he says he no longer needs medication.
Tonya Vyhlidal, Wellness and Life Enhancement director, says Lincoln Industries doesn't pressure workers who don't want to participate. But sooner or later, she says, the company's "culture" attracts most employees to live healthier lives.
The company sponsors races, helps with gym memberships or exercise equipment, offers healthy choices in the vending machines and hosts classes on health and nutrition."
Source - http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/07/25/fn.healthy.company/ind...
Do you participate in a program like this? Would you? Do you think companies have the right to charge unfit and unhealthy people more for company health insurance? Would a program like this at your work encourage you to become healthier?
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