Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em
When it comes to your employee medical premium contributions, do you enforce a tobacco surcharge?
Employers often install a tobacco surcharge because they’re looking for reduced large claims down the road or to reduce claim costs now. Unfortunately, recent studies maintain they may be looking in the wrong place.
Since the start of America’s Health Ranking Annual Report in 1990, the prevalence of smoking in U.S. adults decreased by 41 percent. However, in this same time period, obesity among U.S. adults has increased by 157 percent¹.
Not to say we should stop trying to reduce tobacco use, rather we should intensify our efforts to reduce the number of employees and spouses that are obese and severely obese. From a healthcare cost perspective, severe obesity drives 81 percent higher cost per employee per year than tobacco use.
As a person's BMI increases, so do the number of sick days, workers comp claims and healthcare costs. For instance:
- Obese adults spend 42 percent more on direct healthcare costs than adults who are a healthy weight
- Per capita healthcare costs for severely or morbidly obese adults (BMI >40) are 81 percent higher than for healthy weight adults
- Obesity is associated with increased risk of 13 types of cancer. These cancers account for about 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States²
- Moderately obese (BMI between 30 and 35) individuals are more than twice as likely as healthy weight individuals to be prescribed prescription pharmaceuticals to manage medical conditions
- Costs for patients visiting emergency rooms with chest pains are 41 percent higher for severely obese patients, 28 percent higher for obese patients and 22 percent higher for overweight patients than for healthy weight patients
Instead of a tobacco surcharge:
- Considering retiring your tobacco surcharge and replace with a financial incentive to participate in a biometric screening
- Require the results are shared with the participant’s primary physician
- Make waist circumference part of the screening in addition to height and weight
- Include health coaching with outreach programs for those that have scores significantly higher than the norm
- Provide further incentives for those who are improving their scores year after year
- Offer nutrition-related incentives
It’s unfortunate that employers have to be responsible for raising awareness and improving the health of their employees, but there are major fiscal and culture-related benefits in doing so. Remember, the majority of an employee’s time is spent at work. It makes it the perfect place to connect an employee (or spouse) with the tools to help them improve and maintain their health.
For more information on helping your employees improve and maintain their health, contact a member of the ‘A’ Team.
¹United Health Foundation, America’s Health Rankings 2016
²The state of obesity. Better policies for a healthier America
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