When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, it’s hard for anyone—let alone a company—to tell someone how to live their life. This is why healthcare costs in general are traditionally so inconsistent. For employers with self-funded insurance programs, this inconsistency in employee health behaviors can also cause healthcare costs to fluctuate. In fact, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 79 percent or organizations saw their healthcare costs rise from 2016 to 2017.
While employers can provide significant guidance to make it easier than ever to receive quality care, at the end of the day patients are ultimately responsible for their health outcomes. But employers can take proactive care to the next level by educating employees and other stakeholders about health behaviors and values that directly impact healthcare costs.
Below, we’ll look at three critical health behaviors and how they impact healthcare costs.
Regular primary care visits
Visiting a doctor regularly is the best way to stay healthy and avoid the onset of chronic conditions. Unfortunately, many Americans flat-out avoid going to a primary care physician–around 28 percent of men and 17 percent of women don’t have a regular doctor on call. This lack of interest in preventative health can be attributed to a few factors (rising costs and uncertainty about the healthcare industry as a whole are at the top of the list) and the problem is only getting worse. Over 27 percent of surveyed millennials (aka the new workforce generation) say that they will avoid going to a doctor because of costs. Without these regular visits, however, it is difficult to track and monitor certain conditions or possible illnesses, often until it is too late.
Sometimes, just having improved access to a primary care physician can jumpstart a person’s renewed interest in preventative care. Other times, it can take serious education and affirmation on the ins and outs of healthcare costs and why preventative programs are the answer. Employers must realize that each of their employees are different, and thus will latch on to different reasons why primary care visits are the answer to long-term health.
Healthy eating habits
It might not seem like employers can do much to influence the eating habits of employees, but consider how many times throughout the day people tend to snack. And for many in the workforce, walking into a break room every day to see donuts, sugary treats, and salty snacks is a truly overwhelming test of willpower.
Alarmingly, a majority of chronic conditions are connected to eating habits, including diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Educating and working with employees to modify eating habits can lead to substantial long-term results, including reducing the risk of these chronic conditions. Employers can also make conscious decisions regarding the types of foods that are stocked in break rooms to encourage employees along the right path. HR and wellness teams should also look into possible partnerships with local organic farms or lifestyle-conscious restaurants when ordering meals for a group or for a team. It may not seem like much, but these small changes can make a big impact for many employees down the road.
Healthy lifestyle values
While it may seem as though employees spend a majority of their time at work, they have lives outside of the office as well. While healthcare may seem like a byproduct of ‘daily life at the office,’ the only way healthy behaviors will actually impact employees is when they seek true commitment to these values outside of the office.
Today’s job force is actively looking to enter into partnerships with healthy lifestyle-conscious organizations. Younger generations have seen how inconsistent the American healthcare system is, and they are now seeking out resources to help develop and maintain healthy lifestyles.
On top of offering improved access to care, employers can also promote healthy lifestyle values to their employee population in the form of benefits or employee perks. These can include things like:
- A monthly gym stipend or free workout sessions
- Weekly onsite yoga or in-office meditation
- Partnerships with lifestyle, fitness, or wellness coaches
- Involvement with charity events like 5ks, walks, and even outdoor community events
While these lifestyle initiatives offer amazing benefits to employees, they can also help organizations attract and retain talent, making the hiring process more competitive while widening the pool of possible new hires.
Making Healthcare a High Priority is Key
Changing the way employees think about healthcare can help lower healthcare costs for self-funded organizations. Instead of an afterthought in a busy lifestyle, healthy behaviors and choices should be at the forefront of people’s minds.
OurHealth offers a unique approach to employer-sponsored healthcare that focuses on lowering costs while increasing access to primary care and wellness programming.