Now that Americans are back to work after the July 4 holiday, it’s worth remembering that about 175 million people nationwide get their health coverage through an employer.
Americans spend 44.5 hours per week working, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than we spend doing anything else – even sleeping. And 92 percent of employers offer a workplace wellness program, according to a recent survey of HR professionals.
Yet workplace health trends typically receive little media attention. Continue reading
Photo: White House Conference on Aging
It’s difficult to describe the experience of walking into the East Room of the White House as an invited member of the press for the once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging.
Several hundred invited VIPs – family caregivers, home care workers, advocates for seniors, corporate executives and members of Congress – filled the neat rows of chairs for the morning panels. Continue reading
We have a lot of cool gadgets, but how can they really improve our health? And can they change health care? We are in a state of wearables 1.0, so what does wearables 2.0 look like?
Andrea Kissack, senior science editor at KQED-San Francisco, asked those questions at the outset of the panel “Wearables: Possibilities for consumers and health professionals” at Health Journalism 2015. Continue reading
“The idea of the wellness trust is to create a pool of money that can effectively address the social determinants that are making our families sick and the vast disparities in health and access based on which ZIP code you live in,” Jim Mangia, CEO of a network of 10 community clinics in south Los Angeles, told journalist Rob Waters.
I’d never heard of a “wellness trust” until I stumbled upon Mangia’s engaging Q&A with Waters, who blogs about health and science over at Forbes. Mangia is part of a coalition of labor and community groups trying to establish a wellness trust with funding obtained via a state law that mandates that a certain percentage of profit made by hospitals be spent on community benefits. Here’s Mangia:
“If you look at where the money is in healthcare, it’s with hospitals, health plans and insurance companies. So if you’re going to reorder the priorities of a healthcare system in a particular area, you have to use the resources of the system’s wealthiest elements. The issue is: Are these community benefit dollars actually being used for community benefits? I think some are and some aren’t. We’ve done research and know that cities and counties have some power to decide how those community benefits are spent. It’s through that process we think we can create this trust.”
Here’s a trend to watch: More employers are using both financial incentives (the carrot) and penalties (the stick) in wellness programs. A number of publications have covered the issue of employers using penalties, perhaps because the penalties are a relatively new development.
For many years, employers have used incentive payments and other inducements to encourage workers to participate in wellness programs. But a rising number of employers are using financial penalties to encourage participation.
In July, Pennsylvania State University told its employees and their spouses that they would face a $100 monthly surcharge unless they completed a biometric screening and an online wellness profile and certified that they have had or will have a physical exam. Penn State added that it would not have access to the health screening results.
Dena Bunis, managing editor at CQ HealthBeat, covered this story and reports (via the Commonwealth Fund) that as part of the biometric testing, employees and spouses have to get blood pressure and fasting blood tests and height and weight measurements. In emails, faculty and staff have raised questions about why the university decided to encourage participation with a penalty rather than a financial incentive, Bunis wrote. Continue reading