OCTOBER 12TH, 2021
Routine, preventative care can help to detect, prevent, treat, or reverse the course of healthcare issues. It’s our best defense against an infinitely long list of potential health issues. So you might be surprised to hear that only 8 percent of Americans are getting the preventative healthcare they need to maintain optimal health.
Employers should be incentivized to promote preventative health measures, as after individuals and their families, they stand the most to gain (or lose). Without preventative care, people are more likely to: Suffer from preventable diseases, miss early signs of disease and miss opportunities to treat or reverse the course of disease, and miss work or have to quit work due to health issues.
By encouraging employees to stay on top of their preventative care, employers can protect their employees from avoidable illness, and protect themselves from the cost of that illness, which comes in the form of absenteeism, presenteeism, employee turnover, and increased insurance costs. Here are 6 facts about preventative care every employer should know.
Primary prevention aims to avoid the onset of disease -- think vaccines, avoiding tobacco and excessive drinking, and weight loss programs. Secondary prevention aims to prevent disease from spreading beyond its early stages and can include screenings for breast cancer, colon cancer, and others.
Tertiary prevention is the most challenging for employers to influence, because it is so specific to each individual and their unique medical conditions. It aims to minimize progression of an existing disease. However, there is a lot that employers can do to promote primary and secondary preventative measures.
For example, launching a wellness program focused on encouraging employees to build healthy habits at work and at home can be an effective form of primary prevention. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 84% of employers with 200+ employees that offered health benefits also offered a wellbeing program in 2019.
Wellness programs can include incentivized or discounted fitness classes close to the office, contests to encourage drinking water or taking walking breaks, and providing tools and resources to help employees track and change their behaviors.
Employers can also take a more active role in secondary prevention — such as by hosting events for employees to get routine screenings.
Research published by Health Testing Centers found that one out of four Americans with health insurance didn’t get a health checkup last year.
Regular checkups are often our first line of defense against preventable illness. When patients have regular access to affordable preventative care, their chronic conditions are more likely to be discovered and managed. This lowers the likelihood of both emergency room visits and more expensive treatments for diseases that have progressed past regular management.
Dr. Niket Sonpal, an internist in New York City highlighted the importance of routine checkups: "If you are healthy and have no chronic conditions then once a year for an annual physical to the internist and once a year for your flu shot is at least the minimum," he said.
Speaking of flu shots: Although the CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine, only a third of insured Americans got a flu shot last year, despite the fact that flu shots are usually free for those with health insurance. This is a problem for employers, as absences due to illness could cost employers over $17 billion in lost productivity over the course of the flu season.
So what can employers do? Offer a flu shot event at the office, or for remote teams, host a virtual event where you offer half a day of PTO in order to allow employees to go get their flu shots.
Dental care is another area where Americans tend to not get the preventative care they need. And this is costly: One in five children aged 6 to 11 years and one in four adults have untreated cavities. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems eating, speaking and learning.
On average, 34 million school hours are lost each year because of unplanned (emergency) dental care, and over $45 billion is lost in productivity due to dental disease.
As an employer, you can encourage preventative dental care:
- Managers can set an example by taking time to go to the dentist (or take their kids to the dentist) during the work day.
- Members of your benefits/people team can send out email reminders for various preventative health measures, including scheduling an annual dental appointment.
It’s important for employers to understand why people don’t get the preventative care they need so they can intervene properly. These reasons include lack of health insurance, lack of a doctor, problems with healthcare delivery, such as wait times in clinics or doctors’ offices, and cost.
If you provide health insurance for your employees, you can cross that off your list. However, there are ways that employers can help make preventative healthcare more accessible and affordable for their employees.
Finding a local provider can be a stumbling block for many people. Health insurance websites can be difficult to navigate, providers might not be available, etc. If your employees live in the same geographical area, you can help by connecting them with doctors that are in-network. This is as simple as asking around the office for recommendations for in-network providers, and then distributing that list to your employees.
The cost of preventative healthcare can also be a challenge for your employees that might prevent them from getting the preventative care they need. In one survey, 64 percent of patients reported that they have delayed or neglected care within the past year because their medical expenses would be too high, the report showed. Sixty-one percent of patients said they have no money saved for high medical expenses.
There are three main ways employers can help employees get the medical care they need:
- Pay for their care outright, which is typically cost-prohibitive
- Contribute to HSAs, which typically isn’t enough to close the affordability gap
- Offer Paytient as a benefit to increase access and affordability of care
Offering Paytient as a benefit is a low-cost, high-impact way for employers to help make healthcare more affordable. For just a few dollars a month per employee, Paytient gives employees a healthier way to pay for their care.
By giving employees a healthier way to pay for their medical, vision, dental, and even veterinary care, employers can make it significantly more likely that employees will get the preventative care they need (and be able to afford it).
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