Employee Wellness Programs: Smoking Cessation
Health and medical spending costs for employers are on the rise and more companies are looking to employee wellness programs and smoking cessation programs to help curb some of those costs and promote better employee health.
According to a 2015 “Cancer and the Workplace” report, published by Northeast Business Group, the costs for cancer care is growing at twice the rate of costs for other healthcare expenses. The report says that the medical costs of cancer care for employers in the US totaled $264 billion in 2010, with direct medical costs accounting for $125 billion and indirect costs resulting from lost employee productivity computing at $139 billion.
Genetech’s published annual “2017 Oncology Trend Report” highlights cancer trends for managed care organizations, pharmacies, oncologists, practice managers and employers. Genetech reported 61% of surveyed employers use employee wellness programs and health assessments in their benefits strategy with most incentivizing employees monetarily for program participation and completion. Additionally, 89% of surveyed employers reported sponsoring formal smoking cessations programs as part of their employee wellness programs.
While cancer care costs are significant, more significant still is the bigger financial picture of all smoking-related illnesses both direct and indirect. According to a CDC fact sheet published on June 16 of this year, smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year, including: Nearly $170 billion for direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity.
Perhaps smoking cessation can be considered low-hanging fruit for companies looking to make considerable insurance rate reduction gains and improved employee attendance and productivity performance. A good stop-smoking program educates employees on the related health risks, provides extensive support resources and access to healthcare structured with a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit. Most tobacco cessation benefits include treatment and medication coverage, reduced copays, cost-sharing medications, counseling and an unlimited amount of times a person can try to quit in their lifetime.
One tool for employers tasked with monitoring employee compliance is cost-effective saliva and urine nicotine tests that provide instant results. Many of these instant tests can easily be administered by a designated staff person, saving on clinic or lab fees. These tests are designed to detect cotinine, which is the marker for identifying tobacco use, and can render either pass/fail results or can give semi-qualitative results if you need to measure estimated consumption as part of an employee’s reduction efforts. Positive test results can also be sent to a lab for confirmation testing.
Employers looking to get ahead of these rising healthcare trends using incentive-based employee wellness programs designed to educate the employee and promote change will no doubt see a reduction in their insurance rates. Arguably the greatest return is that of improved employee health and performance.
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