Do Prevention Or Treatment Services Save Money? The Wrong Debate

Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Health Affairs (Impact Factor: 4.97). 01/2009; 28(1):37-41. DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.28.1.37
Source: PubMed


Health improvements and cost savings are achievable by providing targeted, evidence-based, and cost-effective health promotion and disease prevention programs that reduce modifiable risk factors, often the cause of costly chronic diseases. Adopting commonsense health practices does not require expensive technology, medication, specialty training, or elaborate treatment facilities. Instituting environmental, policy, and normative interventions, in addition to individual behavior change programs, can shift our thinking about how we pay for health. Employers' efforts in providing health promotion programs to their workers offer a microcosm of how prevention can lead to populationwide risk reduction and cost savings.

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    ABSTRACT: The United States future economic stability directly depends on its citizen’s health. Helping Americans maintain their health is crucial in ensuring health care cost stay down and our workforce remains competitive in the global economy. Investing in keeping employees healthy will not only spare them from needless suffering, but also save billions of dollars in preventable sickness and injuries. A large corporation located in the state of Pennsylvania is actively attempting to reduce employees’ health risk by implementing a worksite wellness program aimed towards preventing lifestyle related illness. The value of these programs have been promoted by a number of public health and economic researchers who studies show that programs targeted in the workplace are efficient and effective tools in reducing health care cost. Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of a large employer’s wellness program in reducing lifestyle related health care claims and capturing the employee population that has the potential of using health care services at a higher rate; define cost-saving opportunities and demonstrate the value of maintaining this program in the future. Methods: Literature Review, subjects taken from observed company’s employee population and limited to all benefits eligible employees. T-test analysis comparing mean health care dollars spent on lifestyle related claims between three employee participation groups (full, partial, or no participation) for three years of the program. Chi-squared analysis was performed to assess differences in level of participation between three independent factors: gender of employees, employee status (for example: full-time salaried or full-time hourly), and type of insurance (i.e. Blue Cross/Blue Shield vs. Cigna). Results: No statistical significance was found between participation groups and their lifestyle related health claims. However, by examining raw mean dollars an approximate $600-$800 per employee was saved by implementing the worksite wellness program in years one and three. Significance was also found between gender group, employee status, and most often employees’ type of insurance. Conclusion: Taking the literature review at face value, wellness programs are desirable tools for companies looking to reduce their health care expenditures while creating a worksite culture of health and excellence. The results of this study came to similar conclusions revealing hundreds of dollars of savings, incentive strategies that increased participation and targeting groups that can assist the company in realizing even more health care cost savings.
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