Employee Wellness. Employee Healthcare. Should Employers Pay For This Stuff?

While it is unlikely that employers in mass will stop funding employee medical benefits, with a new administration in the White House determined to "fix" healthcare everything is on the table.

I believe the number and percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance is around sixty-percent. While many believe employers should subsidize employee health care as a moral obligation most employers view it as a competitive necessity to recruit and retain staff - if your competitor does it then you also must do it.

Others argue that companies shouldn't even be in the healthcare business. Employers aren't responsible for employee mortgages or sending employee's children to college. Why should they be involved in an employee's health - or subsidize unhealthy habits that end up costing the company a ton of money and have no correlation to employee health? That's right, there is no correlation between offering employee healthcare and healthy employees, reduced absenteeism, productivity, etc. In fact, employer healthcare costs arguably helped drive GM into bankruptcy.

But under no circumstance do employers ever really pay for employee healthcare - the costs are always passed on to society (higher priced goods and services) or employees who forgo higher wages. BTW, some advocate paying higher salaries and letting employees deal with purchasing/managing their medical insurance which may motivate people to live healthier lifestyles.

Whatever your beliefs, the fact is employers want and need healthy employees. Healthy employees come to work more often, are happier and are more productive.

So what's a company to do?

While many employers are decreasing their commitment to medical benefits in this recession, they are increasing their investment in employee well-being which gives us a glimpse into where things may be heading.

These employers are adopting strategies that do correlate with healthier employees. For example, a recent story in Time magazine points out that more companies are encouraging employees to get healthier by investing in employee wellness.
This is great news for preventive helthcare and wellness companies who provide health screenings, smoking cessation, weight management and health coaching, health club subsidies, etc. Programs that have a measurable impact on absenteeism, productivity and healthcare premiums. At HRmarketer.com we work with dozens of these wellness companies and all are growing - even in this economy!

This article from the economist (Healthy employees, wealthy employers?) gives a good picture of what the future may look like in employer healthcare.

Regardless of your position on employee healthcare there is no doubt that things are about to drastically change. And this will present huge opportunities for HR vendors competing in the employee benefit and wellness space.

If you are one of these companies, now is not the time to decrease your marketing and PR budgets. This is the time to get aggressive because employers are finally listening and ready to buy. Your time has finally come.

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