Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Choosing Health

If we as a healthcare organization are truly committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our community, I believe we have to start with ourselves. It’s about setting an example for health and wellness.

For many years we have embraced the concept of creating a healthy workforce through a program called “I Choose Health.” Its focus is to encourage GRMC employees to live healthier lives.

GRMC has a self-insured health plan. This simply means that all our covered employees and their family members either pay the bill with a co-payment or deductable or GRMC does. When we reduce the number of health claims submitted, we reduce the cost for covering our employees and their families. That in turn reduces the cost for GRMC to deliver our services. Through our incentives we have been successful in bending the cost curve for healthcare coverage at GRMC. There has not been a substantial increase in health insurance premiums in three years. We had a minimal increase of 3 percent from 2009, well below the Iowa market standard of 17 percent. Additionally, we saw a 9 percent decrease in blood lipid levels from 54 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2009.

However, it is clear more can be done, so this year we took a bold step with I Choose Health.

If employees choose to participate in this program, they can continue to enjoy our excellent health coverage at the same costs in 2011. To participate, employees and covered spouses are required to get appropriate annual screenings and a physical, keep an exercise log, not use or make a concerted effort not to use tobacco, and reduce the harmful effects of stress in their lives. If they choose not to participate, their co-payments and deductibles go up significantly.

Of course there are health issues we don’t have much control over, such as an accident. However, there are ways we can take personal responsibility to improve our health to possibly avoid health conditions. We can take responsibility for what we do to maintain a healthy weight through exercise and food choices. We can get the appropriate screenings and an annual physical to detect early signs of illness. We can refrain from using tobacco. We can learn to manage our stress levels. These are choices we all make. Simply put, it costs less if we all take better care of ourselves and the costs our employees pay for their coverage should reflect these efforts.

We have gone to great lengths to make it easy for our employees to take this personal responsibility for improved health. The great thing is the benefits go beyond lower healthcare costs. In fact, the real benefits are an improved health status and greater enjoyment of life. That is the real prize. If a hospital cannot be the leader in helping to create the healthiest workforce, who will? Our responsibility is to keep our costs for the delivery of quality healthcare the lowest possible including our benefit costs. Our vocation is to help our most vital resource, our employees, live the highest quality of life possible. That is something to celebrate.

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