|Companies Are Getting More Involved In The Health Of Their Workforce
The number of employers who say they will get more
directly involved in managing the individual health of their employees
jumped 25 percentage points from last year, reflecting a nationwide
trend to find more ways to save money in a tightening economy,
according to new research by Hewitt Associates
But while companies believe they need to get more involved in keeping their workforce healthy, employees are less convinced.
Hewitt’s survey of more than 500 U.S. companies
revealed a fundamental shift in how they view healthcare. While cost is
still a big concern, for the first time, keeping employees healthy was
also named as one of their top business and workforce issues this year.
Eighty-eight percent plan to make investments in
longer-term solutions aimed at improving the health and productivity of
their workforce over the next three to five years, up from 63 percent
But employees may be slow to accept the role that
employers intend to play. According to a separate Hewitt survey of
30,000 employees, while almost three quarters (74 percent) think
employers are responsible for helping them understand how to use their
health plan, just 12 percent believe companies have a role in helping
them understand how to stay healthy.
According to Hewitt’s research, employees see a
direct link between health and financial well-being. Almost all (95
percent) believe that taking care of their health today will have a
direct impact on what they pay out-of-pocket for healthcare in the
Similarly, 96 percent agree that catching health
problems at an early stage, or preventing them before they happen, can
save them money.
However, while employees said they know healthy
behaviors can save them money in the long run, many take actions that
compromise their health outcomes.
According to Hewitt’s research, 88 percent claim
they engage in healthy behaviors. But when asked about specific actions
they take toward living a healthy lifestyle, less than one-half said
they eat right or exercise regularly (47 percent and 40 percent
respectively), and only four out of 10 (40 percent) said they do a good
job at asking for advice on how to stay healthy.
In addition, a number of employees admit that cost plays
a role in influencing their health behaviors.Nearly one-third (30
percent) said they did not go to the doctor when they were sick because
of cost, and 27 percent didn’t fill a prescription given by a
Almost one in five (19 percent) stopped taking
medications before their prescription ran out, and of those, 18 percent
did so because of finances.
Like employees, cost is also a concern for the majority of companies, with 82 percent are focusing on cost mitigation in 2008.
However, the more traditional strategies that companies
have used in the past to help lower costs — such as cost shifting
to employees or consumer-driven healthcare — have slowed or
According to Hewitt’s research, while 64 percent
of companies say cost shifting to employees is currently a part of
their primary healthcare strategy, just 17 percent plan to make it a
priority over the next three to five years. In addition, just 20
percent currently offer an health reimbursement account and/or health
savings account, and less than 6 percent plan to adopt one in 2008.
To more effectively address rising healthcare costs,
Hewitt’s research reveals that companies are taking more
aggressive steps to drive behavior change and encourage people to take
more responsibility for their personal health and healthcare. Almost
half (47 percent) believe that effective treatment of behavioral health
conditions is critical to controlling healthcare costs, maintaining
high levels of productivity and mitigating absences.
As a result, more than 85 percent of companies say they
invest or plan to invest significant resources in long-term health and
productivity initiatives over the next three to five years. In
addition, almost two-thirds (63 percent) plan to offer incentives to
motivate sustained healthcare behavior change, and 67 percent will
utilize healthcare data and measurements to drive their
organization’s healthcare strategy.
Address: Hewitt Associates, 100 Half Day Rd., Lincolnshire, IL 60069; (847) 295-5000, www.hewittassociates.com.