The statistics are foreboding: since 1980, growth in healthcare spending has outpaced all other consumer spending by a factor of nearly three, while increasing from 5% to 18% of GDP. Looking just 3 years ahead, this figure is projected to reach at least 22%. Despite so much of the national conversation focused on managing “healthcare”, employers remain confronted with:
- Healthcare renewal costs that are unsustainable
- Plan design changes that have reduced benefits
- Employee dissatisfaction with reduced benefits and increased costs
To understand why a shift in the national conversation from healthcare to health is necessary, one needs only to consider the implications of the data provided by our medical professionals:
- Nearly 75% of Americans are overweight, and 33% qualify as obese
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke are now the leading cause of death
- 17.5 million Americans will be afflicted with diabetes, and 25.1 million with cardiovascular disease
- 1 in 3 children born after 2000 will develop diabetes by age 50
- 29% of adults with high blood pressure are undiagnosed
- 70% of all claim costs are the direct results of behavior
- 74% of all claims are confined to four chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity
For those business owners seeking real solutions to rising healthcare costs, we propose the need to change the conversation on how to improve the health of those who are employed.
Understanding that the cost of improving health is far lower than the healthcare costs associated with combating increased disease, companies must learn how to build a culture of health improvement and engage employees and families in order to achieve sustainability in healthcare costs. To do so, employers can take a “measures-based approach” to identify risk within the employee population, develop strategies to facilitate positive change among high risk individuals, and strategies to keep the healthy population healthy.
By learning and adopting new strategies that emphasize and reward employees and their families to embrace healthy lifestyle choices, employers can help employees and their families become far more efficient healthcare consumers, and move towards a zero trend health plan (for our next discussion).
Changing the Conversation: Health vs. Healthcare, is an editorial series designed to advance the health improvement model as a business strategy, supported by medical research, academic and corporate case studies. Scott Bradley is a Sr. Vice President with Cook, Hall & Hyde, Inc., a health and welfare advocate supporting middle market employers to design, implement and manage employee health improvement and insurance programs.