Health care reform: Preventive services ignored

By Bruce Japsen
Posted Aug. 18, 2010 at 10:54 a.m.

The new health care legislation soon will require insurers and employers to fully cover preventive services for workers. But the challenge may be to get employees to take advantage of the benefit, according to a new study.

The Midwest Business Group on Health said workers are not using preventive care programs as much as they should despite an emphasis by large corporations in recent years on wellness.

A key tenet of the health overhaul legislation, known as the Affordable Care Act, will require health plans to cover preventive services by eliminating cost-sharing, such as co-payments or deductibles for services. For example, employees who fork over a $10 co-payment for a blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol test won’t have to do so after the law kicks in Sept. 23.

The law will bring more no-cost vaccines, flu shots and screenings to millions of Americans who are not already getting them free from their employers, observers say, but that won’t solve the problem of getting people to use the services.

“Employers have rolled out these programs, but people don’t take advantage,” said Larry Boress, president and chief executive of the Midwest Business Group, a Chicago-based national coalition that represents more than 100 employers that spend more than $2.5 billion on health care benefits. Its members include Abbott Laboratories, Boeing Co. and Kraft Foods Inc.

The group’s research shows 88 percent of workers lack an understanding of the value of preventive services and more than half, or 56 percent, say they have “no motivation to stay healthy.”

Boress said employers should take advantage of the heightened awareness that came with the health legislation to point out the importance of preventive screenings as a way to detect chronic conditions that, if left untreated, could lead to higher costs for employers and their workers.

“Part of this falls on employers because they don’t communicate (preventive services) effectively, and then people don’t recognize the value,” he said.

Midwest Business is encouraging employers to step up communication about wellness programs in the next two months as employers enter the open-enrollment period, the annual fall corporate ritual that allows employees to choose or change their benefit offerings for the next year.

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  1. terri bush Aug. 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    i wish there was a way for people like me to throughly understand what is happening with this new health care law.where in lamans terms can i find it all out? will this affect everyone? what does it mean to me a low income person that is trying to stay healthy with not much to live on…

  2. Tom N Aug. 18, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Try this website

  3. Peter Saravis Aug. 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    The big disconnect between today’s wellness programs and the employees they aspire to reach is lack of personalization. Health care is not a group activity! So blanketing the workplace with generalized posters and flyers simply doesn’t resonate with a lot of employees, who feel their health issues are their personal business.

    Effective employee engagement must speak directly to the employee’s specific illness, financial concerns and motivations. Effective employee engagement must do more than simply remind the employee that he hasn’t had his blood work done this year, or that her annual pap smear is due in one month. Optimal employee engagement tells the employee exactly where they need to be and when, shares insight into overcoming barriers, provides their doctors contact information and then gives employees tools, like a sticky note to paste on their calendar, so they won’t forget. Additionally, effective employee engagement tells employees exactly what their co-pay will be, and gives them alternative options for even less expensive care.

    I agree with the findings of the Midwest Business Group on Health that workers are not using preventive care programs as much as they should. But it doesn’t have to be that way if we acknowledge that healthcare is a very personal, complex and individual activity. Engagement platforms like Evive Health understand and marry personalized health data with individualized messaging, and are seeing 15%-20% increases in adherence across the entire population for preventive care, wellness and chronic care in the first year alone. The more we can move in that direction, the more everyone wins.

    Peter Saravis
    Evive Health