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Fixin' Healthcare

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Choose Your Partners Well for Wellness

Staff at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine surveyed US employers about coverage of clinical preventive services and reported their findings in the American Journal of Health Promotion 20(3), 2006.

The primry motivation for offering preventive care programs is to lower health care costs and reduce absenteeism.

Large employers (more than 500 employees) are more likely to offer preventive services.

Only one-third of employers used incentives to get employees to use the preventive programs. Large employers are more likely to use financial incentives (lower insurance premiums) and smaller employers gave time off to use the services.

Physical exams, immunizations and cancer and cholesterol screenings are the preventive services most often covered.

Only 20% of employers included relatively low cost services with high potential for financial return such as smoking cessation, reducing alcohol abuse, better nutrition, more exercise and flu shots.

The authors speculate as to why employers who seek financial return from preventive services are least likely to offer the services most likely to provide this return. Their speculation fails to note that the preventive services most often covered are medically oriented. The employers have relied upon providers who are not familiar with the goal and have no experience with the means to accomplish the goal.

Lifestyle modification programs are long-term in a short-term environment but they offer low cost means to high potential returns. The current crop of health care practitioners, hospitals and insurance companies are not prepared to assist with this task.

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