Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Personal Health Statistics

Since baseball season is starting next week, I am going to make a baseball analogy here. If you don't care for the sport, skip the next two paragraphs. You won't miss much. I promise.

 Let's say you have a seasoned veteran on your roster. He has lots of experience and knows how to play the game. He had some very good years in his prime, but has let himself go recently. He batted a mere .237 last season, after batting nearly .270 the season before and almost .290 for most of his career. You have noticed the his downward slide, even without looking at his numbers, into mediocracy and provided every opportunity to improve. He has coaches, training camps, and state-of-the-art equipment at his disposal, but he has not put any serious effort into. He might have gone through the motions a few times, but at the end of the day - basically, he has fallen into complacency. 

After all of the positive reinforcement in the world has not worked, you let him know that the team no longer values his abilities at the same level that it used to. He needs to prove his worth or else some young kid is going to be starting at first base at the beginning of the season instead of him. If that is the case, then the team will need to re-negotiate his salary downwards, if not let him go. Shape up, or he is going to take a hit right where it hurts - the pocketbook. This gets his attention. The veteran works out more; he loses a few pounds; and runs a little faster. His stats improve and his career continues. Everyone wins.

Should we hold more people to this standard? Should they be forced to shape up or be paid less?

CVS is taking a stand on this issue. Now that CVS is forced to buy health care for all of their employees due to the Affordable Care Act, they are requiring each and every employee to undergo basic health measurements - even the CEO. Every month or so, your heart rate and BMI will be measured and compared to previous months. Failure to comply or to improve your measures into an acceptable range would mean that the employee would have to pay a higher health care premium. A hit right to the good ol' pocket-book.

For years, US companies have tried the carrot approach to making their workers healthier. They changed their cafeteria lunches to more nutritious options. They provided gym facilities right in the office and were willing to pay their employees to work out. They would run company-wide anti-smoking and anti-obesity initiatives. These efforts worked a little bit, but not to the extent that the companies wanted. When the carrot fails, introduce the stick.

CVS is going to make you see the direct cost of your unhealthy lifestyle choices directly. If you choose to smoke, it is going to cost you. If you choose not to take advantage of the company gym, it is going to cost you. If you fall into complacency with your own health, it is going to cost you. It is a way to pass the premiums onto the consumer, to make them aware of their own costs and bend the aggregate cost curve. It costs CVS more to employ you versus the young kid, so why not charge you more if you can not perform at the same level?

CVS actions are ground-breaking and controversial now, but 5 years down the line - every company will be doing it. Especially if CVS can show results. ObamaCare wanted employers to be partially responsible for their employees health. They got what they wanted, even if it is not the way that the designers of the law imagined.

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