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.
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