wellness digest—week of august 1

August 8, 2011

in wellness digest

a roundup of last week’s news that caught my interest.

1. insurance coverage for contraception is required

new guidelines require health insurance plans to fully cover contraception, sterilization, domestic violence counseling, and other tests and screenings that improve and protect women’s health. employers should review their strategy and communications approach with their health partners before these changes go into effect on january 1, 2013 (for most nongrandfathered plans).

“A major goal of the law is to increase the use of preventive services like mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks and childhood immunizations. The law generally bans co-payments, deductibles and other charges for preventive services recommended by expert professional organizations. The law directed federal health officials to pay attention to the health needs of women in particular when listing preventive services that must be covered.”

2. redesigning employee health incentives—lessons from behavioral economics

bookmark this thoughtful analysis of health incentives from the new england journal of medicine, because you’re going to want to return to it. the authors review three principles of behavioral economics and how they affect health incentive design. they also caution against any rose-colored views of workplace wellness efforts.

“The hope behind this ACA provision is that it will improve health-related behavior and reduce the prevalence of chronic disease caused by unhealthy lifestyles. Our research and that of other behavioral economists shows that this premise cannot be assumed. The effectiveness of incentive programs depends critically on how the incentives are timed, distributed, and framed, and several factors might make insurance-premium adjustments, the most common implementation mechanism, less effective dollar for dollar than other approaches.”

3. do-it-yourself health care in corporate america

this fortune article covers three companies who’ve decided to take health care into their own hands and offer employees primary health care services (and more) on their premises. as the article details, providing on-site clinics is a growing business, with employers and others believing it may be a better answer to rising health care costs.

“The [Walgreens] drug store chain has a division called Take Care Health Systems that runs 360 on-site clinics, managing their staff and operations. That business makes up a small percentage of the company’s $67.4 billion in annual revenues, but Take Care Health is seeing more companies move to offer primary care services at their health centers, says Peter Hotz, Walgreen’s group vice president. ‘Our pipeline is up 60%,’ Hotz says.

“A similar uptick is playing out at Kansas City-based Cerner. The company makes software to manage medical records but expanded into the business of building and managing health care clinics after rising health care costs prompted Cerner (CERN) to build its own in-house clinic in 2006.”

4. a three-step plan to lowering health care costs

michael roizen, m.d., identifies three components critical to cleveland clinic’s workplace wellness effort: culture, environment and incentives. he also connects the dots for readers between corporate investments in wellness and our national health care crisis.

“We can no longer afford to debate on whether the rising cost of Medicare is sustainable; rather, we must commit to making real change and inserting accountability in our collective approach to managing the Medicare budget. At Cleveland Clinic, we believe we have begun to make real inroads in managing chronic disease, encouraging personal responsibility and lowering cost—both with our patients and employees.”

5. simple genius: the world’s coolest skate park doubles as a counseling center

this is so clever: a community center that gives kids what they want and puts adults on their turf. the kids are welcome to skate, learn how to graffiti, rock climb, or attend a concert. then, if they need it, they can get counseling support—for tucked within the space’s bright, airy and active boundaries are rooms where parents, kids and counselors can meet.

“It’s the idea of designing a building in a way that helps kids to take risks—from scaling the climbing wall to trying their hand at making electronica music—that makes this building so successful. Here in the U.S., this building could never be built due to the outcry of parents angry that kids are being exposed to unsafe and possibly deviant activities (Gasp! The kids can skate on the sidewalks? They’re teaching them to do graffiti?). But incorporating these things here that kids will want to do elsewhere makes this the place they want to spend their time, not on the streets getting into real trouble. And that’s the beauty of the design—it’s built for kids, not their worrywart parents.”


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