Many years ago, I was meeting with the CEO of a large company trying to sell him on the idea of providing health education and prevention programs for his employees. He liked the idea and, indeed, thought that providing this program to his employees would be a good idea. I pointed out that I thought that he would actually save money on his health insurance program if he invested money in these programs. He said he thought that might have been true a few years before but was no longer true, given the fact that most of his employees stayed with his organization only a few years before they moved on to a new organization. So putting money into, say, smoking cessation or weight control might indeed be a good idea for the individual employee, but his bottomline would probably not be impacted since that employee would most likely move on to another company, and that company would receive the benefit of lower insurance claims since the employee would be healthier. In other words, putting money into health education of his employees and prevention programs would do little to decrease the medical utilization by his employees, since those employees would most likely be moving on to other companies which would benefit from the decreased medical utilization by the employee who had received the smoking cessation or the weight control program that his company had paid for.
The lesson to be learned: As we all know, the present system whereby businesses pay for the medical benefits of their employees does not work very well, and it certainly does not encourage companies to pay for health education and prevention programs since the company paying the bill for these programs will be unlikely to see any direct benefit to their bottom line for having spent the money on the programming. Most likely, the employee will move on to another company by the time the benefits of the health education and prevention would be recognized.
Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
Author, Duct Tape Isn’t Enough