Op-Ed: Employee Health Reform: A Solution to Rising SMB Healthcare Costs

We have the ability to transform America’s workforce, as well as cut costs. Now it’s up to you, the employer, to make that a reality.

Healthcare costs are one of the hottest issues facing American businesses today. Health insurance is one of the most significant expenses for any company, ranking second only to employee salaries. Due to the deteriorating health of our society these costs continue to rise dramatically. However, there is a solution to drive healthcare costs down – improving employee health and wellness.


Small Business Healthcare Costs

The unhealthy behaviors of the U.S. workforce cost employers an average of $670 per employee annually, according to the March 2011 Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index. “For 2013, average health plan premium costs per employee are projected to jump to $11,188, of which average employee contributions to the health plan premium would be $2,385. In addition, average employee out-of-pocket costs (co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles) would be $2,429.,” according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). This number does not include the loss of revenue and other expenses incurred due to decreased employee productivity.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “three-quarters of healthcare costs are secondary to treating chronic disease, resulting in higher premiums.” One of the major factors resulting in chronic disease is obesity.

The CDC states that as of today more than one-third of American adults are obese, which leads to a high incidence of chronic disease, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes – all of which serve to increase the cost of healthcare.


Employee Wellness Linked to Rising SMB Healthcare Costs

Aside from the skyrocketing cost of health care, what is often overlooked is the negative impact of a poor diet on employee productivity. Workers face ongoing emotional and physical issues on the job due to the large amounts of sugar, coffee, and processed foods in their diets. This results, indirectly, in higher labor costs. According to the International Labor Organization, “inadequate nourishment can cut [work] productivity by up to 20 percent.”

We must begin to focus on creating a healthy lifestyle in the workplace, starting with cleaning up the diets of employees by eliminating processed foods. A diet free from processed foods creates a positive impact on health through prevention and even possible reversal of chronic disease.

According to the SHRM, “By improving employee health, workplace wellness programs have been shown to be effective and contribute to a company’s bottom line. A $1 investment in wellness programs saves $3 in health care costs, according to research by the Wellness Council of America.”

By spending on disease prevention measures such as health and wellness programs, employers can save large amounts of money in a fairly short time. We do not need to reform healthcare; we need to reform our health.

We have the ability to transform America’s workforce, as well as cut costs. Now it’s up to you, the employer, to make that a reality.


Zach Schleien is the Director of Leadership & Wellness for the National Student Initiative. He has developed dozens of programs in this field that have been received by thousands of students around the country. Zach is a strong advocate of living a holistic lifestyle and is well trained in providing a personalized diet that suits the needs of each of his clients. Zach is a certified health coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is a graduate of Syracuse University. Zach also received leadership and personal development training through Landmark Education and Cultural Architecture.


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