People across the world are falling so far short on exercise that the problem has become a global pandemic, causing nearly a tenth of deaths worldwide and killing roughly as many people as smoking, researchers warned this week as an alarming series of studies was published in the Lancet.
What the article doesn’t discuss — and should have — is the role the Internet plays in contributing to inactivity. People are wired 24/7. Rather than computers, tablets and smartphones being a yoke around peoples’ necks, they should instead be used as tools to alleviate the daily commute to the office. That would free up more time for exercise given that a top reason people aren’t more active is lack of time.
Aon Hewitt’s survey shows a growing number of employers are beginning to link incentives to a result, as opposed to simply participating in a program. Of companies that offer incentives, 58 percent offer some form of incentive for completing lifestyle modification programs, such as quitting smoking or losing weight. About one-quarter offer incentives for progress or attainment made towards meeting acceptable ranges for biometric measures such as blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar and cholesterol.
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“Employers know that eight health behaviors, including risks such as lack of physical activity and failure to complete recommended preventive screenings, drive 15 chronic conditions that lead to higher medical costs and increased absence from work. An effective incentive strategy rewarding those who take action to improve their health is fundamental for improving health and reducing cost,” said Stephanie Pronk, clinical health improvement leader for Health & Benefits at Aon Hewitt.
Rather than offer incentives for healthy lifestyle choices, employers seeking measurable gains in the health status of their workforces and decreased medical utilization for preventable conditions should afford employees more control over their schedules in order to free up time for exercise and adequate sleep. One of the biggest reasons employees don’t exercise is lack of time — largely due to the outdated expectation that they must commute to an office five days a week in order to perform their jobs. It effectively chains workers to their cars and their desks most of their waking hours and is a prescription for employee sickness, not wellness. This situation cannot be rectified with any amount of “wellness” incentives. Instead of trying to bribe workers to take better care of themselves, employers should treat them as adults and give them more responsibility and control over their schedules as long as they get their work done. How? By adopting a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE).
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concludes the high court’s ruling leaving the health benefit exchange component and related mandates of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act intact but striking down the mandatory state expansion of Medicaid will lower the law’s implementation cost from 2012 to 2022. The reason, CBO concluded, is it will cost the Treasury less in income tax subsidies to help people purchase coverage through the exchanges than it would to add them to the Medicaid rolls:
With about 6 million fewer people being covered by Medicaid but only about 3 million more people receiving subsidies through the exchanges and about 3 million more people being uninsured, and because the average savings for each person who becomes uninsured are greater than the average additional costs for each person who receives exchange subsidies, the projected decrease in total federal spending on Medicaid is larger than the anticipated increase in total exchange subsidies.
Click here for the CBO’s summary and link to the updated budget projections.