"It actually shows that, for starters, there is a dollar cost related to unhealthy behaviors," Fabius says. "So this gives the HR directors some tangible figures to justify the investment of resources to reduce unhealthy behaviors in their workforce."
Fabius says he's also encouraged because the approximately 1.5 million employees at companies taking part in Thomson Reuters' MarketScan wellness promotion program are seeing improved health behaviors.
Using tools like biometric screenings, health assessments, and wellness coaches, Fabius says, employers can and are slowing healthcare cost increases. "So, the real message to employers and HR directors is that you can buck the national trend. You can actually make your workforce healthier over time through the use of appropriate resources and through the use of data tracking," Fabius says.
Remember, the $670 per employee in additional costs measures only medical treatment and pharmaceuticals. It does not include the costs of sick days and "presenteeism," where employees show up for work but are less productive owing to health issues. Factor that in, Fabius says, and the costs could be considerably higher.
Fabius says he's encouraged that many companies are incentivizing employees with richer healthcare benefits if they improve their health metrics. "There are some companies out there now that have basic, better, and best health plan and you can earn your way to the best health plan by completing a health risk appraisal, by doing biometric screenings, by working with health coaches, or working with care managers for chronic illnesses," he says. "Those are four good steps to move a company in a direction of building a culture of health."