Thursday, September 3, 2009

Meanwhile back at the ranch

Health care reform remains in the news. But meanwhile, back at the ranch, what can we do right now to lower health care costs? Actually, quite a bit.

For example, businesses can offer employees incentives to shift to the combination of a high-deductible health plan and a health savings account (HSA). A recent study of employers offering UnitedHealthcare plans concluded that an HSA program provides a 10 to 12 percent absolute cost savings over a four-year period.

Larger employers can study their employee population’s aggregate use of health care benefits to identify and provide special wellness programs to address health issues that are most prevalent in the work force – e.g., nutrition and weight-loss programs to combat diabetes.

Wellness programs can help employees lead healthier lives. Many health care insurers like UnitedHealthcare now offer free online and telephone health care assessments and wellness classes.

And all employers can encourage their employees to use generic drugs, which usually are the same chemical compounds as brand-name pharmaceuticals, but cost less.

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