How much is your company spending on medical costs for employees with health risk factors?

An estimated 25% to 30% of companies’ medical costs per year are spent on employees with obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus and those who use tobacco products.1 A recent meta-analysis showed that medical costs fell by ≈$3.27 and absenteeism costs fell by $2.73 for every dollar spent on worksite wellness programs.2 These savings are most often realized within the first 12 to 18 months.3 Average reductions in sick leave absenteeism, healthcare costs, and workers’ compensation and disability management claims were 28%, 26%, and 30%, respectively.4,5 Productivity outcomes are harder to measure in today’s postmanufacturing economy, and many employers do not have the resources or expertise to conduct such assessment.6.7 Most productivity estimates are based on questionnaires that often yield varied estimates of on-the-job productivity gains or losses even when administered in the same setting.8,9 Overall, however, considerable data now suggest that health-related productivity losses from employees with health risk factors or chronic disease cost US employers $225.8 billion a year or $1685 per employee per year, of which 71% is due to reduced performance at work.10 Currently, the low level of intervention provided in the US workforce for many at-risk employees offers the opportunity to recuperate substantial productivity gains by initiating evidence-based health promotion programs, activities, and policy change in the worksite environment.1,11

References: 1. Carnethon M, Whitsel LP, Franklin BA, Kris-Etherton P, Milani R, Pratt CA, Wagner GR; on behalf of the American Heart Association Advocacy Coordinating Committee; Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease; Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism. Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1725–1741 2. Baicker K, Cutler D, Song Z. Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. Health Aff (Millwood). 2010;29:304–311. 3 Anderson DR, Serxner SA, Gold DB. Conceptual framework, critical questions, and practical challenges in conducting research on the financial impact of worksite health promotion. Am J Health Promot. 2001;15:281–288. 4. Aldana SG. Financial impact of health promotion programs: a comprehensive review of the literature. Am J Health Promot. 2001;15:296–320. 5. Naydeck BL, Pearson JA, Ozminkowski RJ, Day BT, Goetzel RZ. The impact of the highmark employee wellness programs on 4-year healthcare costs. J Occup Environ Med. 2008;50:146 156. 6. Hemp P. Presenteeism: at work–but out of it. Harv Bus Rev. Oct 2004;82:49–58, 155. 7. More Than Health Promotion: How Employers Manage Health and Productivity Research. Integrated Benefits Institute; January 2010. 8. Mattke S, Balakrishnan A, Bergamo G, Newberry SJ. A review of methods to measure health-related productivity loss. Am J Manag Care. 2007;13:211–217. 9. Loeppke R, Taitel M, Haufle V, Parry T, Kessler RC, Jinnett K. Health and productivity as a business strategy: a multiemployer study. J Occup Environ Med. 2009;51:411–428. 10. Stewart WF, Ricci JA, Chee E, Morganstein D. Lost productive work time costs from health conditions in the United States: results from the American Productivity Audit. J Occup Environ Med. 2003;45:1234–1246. 11. Goetzel RZ, Ozminkowski RJ. The health and cost benefits of work site health-promotion programs. Annu Rev Public Health. 2008;29:303–323.

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