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Employers shouldn’t be in the wellness business

September 23rd, 2014

Many American employers are looking to establish employee wellness programs – something that Princeton University health care economist Uwe E. Reinhardt believes they shouldn’t be doing. People should be aware of their health and what they need to do to improve and preserve it. But their health status is not — nor should it be — the responsibility of their employers, Reinhardt said in this interview with Managed Care. (Reinhardt’s comments on this topic begin at 15 minutes into the interview)

Just as government price controls instituted during World War II incented employers to offer health plans for their employees and led to today’s system of employer-based coverage as the norm for most working age Americans, Reinhardt takes a similar view of wellness programs. “I think in America, employers stumbled into this by default,” Reinhardt observed. “I think it’s sad, very sad. Employers should not be doing it.”

I agree with Reinhardt. Health maintenance is ultimately a personal responsibility and not that of one’s employer, health plan and for the vast majority of people, their health care providers. Most human beings naturally tend toward health at all life stages if they live in a healthy environment and engage in health enhancing behaviors relative to diet, plenty of vigorous exercise that raises the heart rate and getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

Rather than set up formal wellness programs, employers should support people’s decisions to engage in these behaviors and provide them to ability to do so while recognizing everyone has their own personal journey toward health.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

  1. Kathy
    September 24th, 2014 at 14:21 | #1

    I do not believe that you have successfully supported your allegation that employers should not be in the wellness business.

    A successful wellness program creates the environment and encourages the health enhancing benefits you describe here:

    ” Most human beings naturally tend toward health at all life stages if they live in a healthy environment and engage in health enhancing behaviors relative to diet, plenty of vigorous exercise that raises the heart rate and getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.”

    A comprehensive wellness plan is the perfect tool for employers to fulfill this requirement that you have placed upon them:

    “Employers should support people’s decisions to engage in these behaviors and provide them to ability to do so while recognizing everyone has their own personal journey toward health.”

    • September 24th, 2014 at 15:57 | #2

      The key thing is organizations foster a culture that supports employee choice for wellness. This is as simple as affording staff control over their work schedules — when and where they produce their work products — in order to give them the freedom and time to make and implement health promoting behaviors and lifestyles. This culture is not present in many organizations that adhere to a 8-5, centralized commuter office Industrial Age paradigm.

  2. September 25th, 2014 at 15:30 | #3

    Game, set and match to Frederick. Kathy, you must be a wellness vendor because they are the only people who defend this fraud.

    If you care about the health of your employees, give them a better place to work. Fire your vendor. You can’t outsource culture.

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