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The health care reform topic seems to be front and center in the news and politics these days, so it is easy to tap stories for discussion.  One such story was featured in the business section of our Star Tribune on March 5th, citing examples of small business employers and how they approach health care coverage.  “When health coverage is a necessity to attract employees, small business owners get creative to find ways to afford the coverage”.  One such company, Sartell Group, stocks their lunchroom fridge with healthy food and snacks to encourage their workers to eat better.  This owner pays 100% of the medical and dental premium for their employees, which gets expensive, but owner Pam Sartell says “I see the benefits 100 times over.  I want my employees to be productive and healthy and happy”.  This philosophy is like paying forward.  With the focus on wellness, Ms Sartell has already seen her premiums decline.  “The costs might be higher up front, she said, but I have healthier people because they go to the doctor for checkups.  I have a stable base of longtime employees and I’m not paying for retraining and rehiring”.  Aside from making sure their fridge is full with breakfast food, fruit, and juices, Sartell encourages lunchtime walks and subsidizes health club memberships.

At a recent HealthPartners symposium, creating a healthy work environment was topic of the day for brokers and employers.  Studies have proven that a happy and healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and there are several ways to improve that.  Insurers are continuously updating online health services that can be accessed easily and quickly. Online physician services like Virtuwell or Anywhere, save time away from the office and money.   Well-being challenges and friendly competitions are creative wellness motivators and workplace morale-builders.  Launching a group health goal of losing weight,  tobacco cessation, and/or adding 5 vegetables and fruits a day to one’s diet, is much more attainable done as a group than on your own.  Creating games and motivational leaders are key in any wellness campaign, and the commitment is well worth it.  It’s a win-win for the employer and employees, and besides the health improvements, it creates better morale at work.

Another perspective in retaining healthy employees is to not only pay the full premium for your employees, but also deductibles, copays, retirement, and child care too!  Henry Bromelkamp of Bromelkamp Co with 16 employees, firmly believes that he is a good businessman and capitalist.  He has been doing this for 33 years.  In return however, employees make less in wages.  “The trade-off puts more money in the workers’ pockets and into the business because of reduced taxes, he said”.  On a spreadsheet, Bromelkamp shows that by paying for health, retirement and child care, the worker moves into a lower tax bracket and avoided taxes on health care expenses, leaving more money in their pocket.  Bromelkamp says every employer should do this.  “It’s not like health care is a luxury.  You can’t say to an employee we can’t afford health care anymore.  Somebody’s going to pay for it.  And it might as well be in pretax dollars”.

As an employer, you are in a great position to lead your group to healthier living.  Minnesota insurance companies have  learned that by paying for preventive care on the front end, saves them money on potentially costly claims.  They are standing by to assist you whenever you want to get started, and are excited to team up with you in this effort.  It’s lunch hour now, and time for a run…


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