Small Businesses, Kansas Employers Offering Worker Wellness Programs

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Worker Wellness Programs

The following summarizes recent newspaper coverage of efforts byemployers to implement wellness programs and other health initiativesfor employees.

  • Chronic disease: ManyKansas employers are "intrigued by the potential savings from in-housewellness programs," as the costs for treating preventable illnesses inthe state are on the rise, the Wichita Eagle reports. A recent report by the research firm Milken Institutefound that treatment for seven of the most common chronic diseases --including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension -- is costing Kansasemployers $9.3 billion in lost productivity. In response, companieshave implemented wellness programs to address lifestyle changes such assmoking and obesity as ways to improve employee health. Some companiesoffer more "sophisticated" programs that analyze and track employees'health, while others have created tools to help calculate returns oninvestments from wellness programs and are penalizing employees forunhealthy behavior, according to the Eagle (Atwater, Wichita Eagle, 10/29).
  • Small businesses: The Chicago Tribuneon Monday examined how a "new crop of small business [are] tappingwellness programs -- as well as consumer-driven plans -- among thenewer options in health care benefit choices that, until recently,mostly larger companies have adopted." According to Robert Nielsen,managing director at Chicago-based Mesirow Financial,small businesses have experienced double-digit annual increases inhealth care costs since about 2000, which is similar to increasesexperienced by larger firms, and are seeking new ways to contain costs.Nielsen added that implementing wellness programs and consumer-drivenhealth plans over time can reduce medical claims, lower insurancepremiums and produce an overall healthier work force. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerceis expected to release a state-funded report in January 2008 that willencourage wellness programs, health club membership discounts andcoverage of flu shots and annual exams, as ways small businesses cancontain health care costs, according to chamber President Jerry Roper(Nemes, Chicago Tribune, 10/29).

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