Ergonomics done right.®
June 3rd, 2008

Playing the shell game

In Jade Bunke’s Healthy strategies for increasing productivity, he states:

”As health care costs continue to rise, businesses must begin looking at how to reduce long-term costs by controlling presenteeism. The first step in controlling costs associated with presenteesim is to understand the link between employee health and productivity.”

We can clearly accept this connection between employee health and productivity, it’s fundamental to our practice.Somehow though “as healthcare costs continue to rise” seems dramatic in its understatement. The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET), found the cost of health insurance has risen by nearly 60% since 2000. Typically, companies try hard to shoulder as much of the burden as possible, but the prescription for escalations of this magnitude necessitates a systemic and a comprehensive view of the problem.

Shellgame Unfortunately, one of the most frequent responses to annual escalations in benefits plans costs is to pass the burden of the increases, as much as possible, back to the employees or plan members in the form of reduced coverages, increased premiums, higher deductibles and increased co-pays.

And this often leads directly to increasing presenteeism. The case in point–as prescription co-pays rise, employees, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, are less likely to consistently fill prescriptions that control the condition and help reduce the number of sick days they must take. Additionally, employees are less likely to see a doctor early for preventive care when confronted with higher visit co-pay or a higher deductible.

This is a zero-sum game, or some would say, a shell game. Companies reduce the amount spent on benefits, only to lose equal or greater amounts in productivity. Companies applaud their gains in recorded injuries when, care for these injuries is shifted to the personal physician. It is merely a matter of categorization. Either way, the company, and it’s customers and its shareholders, bears the brunt of costs which could be avoided through better analysis.