The Weight of the Work Force
Obesity is a high risk for a long list of serious medical diagnoses, as well as poor health in general. That translates to higher healthcare costs associated with those medical issues. Two thirds of a typical American workforce is overweight or obese. They are at a higher risk for developing the diseases that cost employers more (high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke)—up to 52% more in annual healthcare costs vs. healthy weight employees! . . . which results in businesses experiencing substantial increases in benefits premiums. This is painful for all employers, both big and small businesses alike. Why?
Duke University Medical Center, a few years ago, found that as compared to their healthier, non-obese counterparts:(1)
- Obese workers filed twice the number of workers comp claims;
- Obese employees had 7 times higher medical costs from those claims;
- Obese employees lost 13 times more days of work due to injury or illness;
- Obese employees caused their employers to bear a 21% higher health care cost.
- Obesity among full-time employees costs U.S. employers more than $73 billion per year.(2)
Are you an employer or business owner who pays all or part of your employees’ medical benefits and health insurance?
Have exceedingly high premiums forced you to have overweight employees pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums?
Have the costs and regulatory implications of the ACA forced you to cut your work force head count, lower employee hours and/or to avoid hiring obese job applicants or promoting obese employees?
Fact #1: A non-smoking, healthy weight employee has fewer unplanned, missed work days.
Fact #2: Slimmer and healthier employees means lower employer-paid premiums.
As a business owner or employer, here are the questions you should ask yourself.
What would it mean to the bottom line of my business if we help our overweight and obese employees to help themselves lose weight and lower their insurance premiums?
What if we could decrease absenteeism and medical claims while increasing the health and productivity of all who work here?
What can we do to get a better, cheaper insurance plan for the company with a minimized pass-through of costs to employees?
Obesity is a leading source of workplace disability, absenteeism and lack of productivity. Providing vending machines with healthier snacks or better food choices in the cafeteria isn’t enough to get employees to lose weight to work at their full potential. Similarly, providing free memberships to health facilities or free on-site wellness programs alone will not be successful. Those are all fine, of course, but they are only perks . . . they are not incentives or rewards for results. As a matter of fact, in February of 2015 The American Journal of Managed Care issued findings of a study (3), and I just want to share two points made:
“No corporate weight control program has ever reported savings or even sustained weight loss using valid metrics across a sizable population for two years or more, accounting for dropouts and nonparticipants.”
“Corporate weight control programs are ineffective at reducing weight; in addition, the nexus between weight loss and savings/productivity improvement is weak.”
. . . and the authors of the study recommend phasing them out altogether and reallocating resources towards creating a healthier work environment for everyone.
More and more businesses are penalizing workers who don’t make healthy choices by charging them higher contribution amounts to their own coverage. If you don’t want to be one of those employers, you must persuade employees to make better decisions about their own health . . . and then reward those employees for the results. Your business will start enjoying the benefits of a healthier and happier workforce—and lower health insurance premiums before too long.
If you want some ideas on how to do this, and how we can help you, please visit the Workforce Weight Loss℠ page at our web site and fill out the questionnaire.
Recommended reading: How Obesity Can Affect Employment