Many of us have followed the debates between political parties lately about healthcare.
They speak about "what is in the best interest of the small business owner" when many of the career politicians have no experience in the private small business sector or have forgotten what it is like to struggle to keep a business alive in a tough economy. As we sit in limbo and await the decision to be mandated to us there are some proactive steps small business owners can take to reduce their risk and cost if mandatory healthcare is to be legislated. One of the most important things we can do is be proactive in health promotion.
Using work resources
Giving employees incentive or guidance to proper healthcare and nutrition is key in keeping disease and illness low. I have a few suggestions that can provide a low cost solution to make healthcare premiums for small businesses lower.
First, try to provide an onsite fitness center. For many companies in this age however this may not be a reality due to e-commerce or telecommuting. If this is the case consider giving work time for fitness. This can be as little as 2 or 3 hours off a week to exercise 30-45 minutes a couple days during the week. While it may seem like you are losing work and production time I would argue that you are gaining it by reducing the number of sick days taken for illness. A couple hours a week may save you several days in a row of illness related days off. A couple hours is easier to manage and keep up with workload where missing a day or two in a row forces one to play catch or get back into the swing of work.
Formal training or education
Another simple solution is when or if you have a monthly staff meeting incorporate health promoting principles for 5-10 minutes such as discussions on proper nutrition, exercise or habit control groups. This will hopefully spawn an office of healthy loving and change in lifestyle. This will also help to reduce the risk of illness or disease.
Another thing to be added to this is to keep fresh fruit or vegetables in the office for snacks. Make sure you don't provide candy or soda if possible. An employee may have this on their own but if you provide good snacks and drinks they may take what is give to them instead of spending money on things they don't need.
If funding allows you may also consider paying part of a fitness or health program for the employees. Many companies pay for a gym pass or personal training and do not ask to see results. I think this in ineffective at preventing higher health care premiums.
Before shelling out money I would suggest requiring a doctor's note of a physical performed. Have the employee note their body mass index or fat content before beginning a program. If you have them do this then they can be reimbursed part of the costs for the program they choose as long as reasonable goals or changes are met. For example, if an employee has a BMI number of 30 or above and participates in a gym membership they should be expected to reduce that number by 1 BMI point every 60-90 days until a goal is achieved.
These steps have proven effective for corporations in recent years and I would suggest that we plan for the worst and be proactive in reducing our employee's risk of obesity, illness and disease. In turn we will increase effectively and decrease premiums on healthcare plans.