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Your boss as health care coach

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Here's the funny thing about homo sapiens: We tend to focus more on money than we do our own health and well-being. Late nights at the office. Working two jobs. Skipping that annual medical checkup. You get the picture.

This shortsightedness, for want of a better word, has reached such epidemic proportions that even our employers have taken notice, if not around the water cooler then at least from the growing cost to provide their employees with health insurance.

And since we have collectively refused to moderate, the boss has increasingly stepped in to help.

A new survey by the human resources firm Aon Hewitt finds that 83 percent of large to midsize employers now offer incentives for us to take better care of ourselves.

The majority, or 79 percent, employ the carrot approach, offering rewards if we take positive action by, say, filling out a health risk questionnaire or participating in health screenings. Just 5 percent take the stick approach and impose adverse consequences on workers who continue down the path to perdition. And 16 percent hit us with a little of both.

While the rewards approach has been preferred by most employers to date, more than half, or 58 percent, of those surveyed say they're considering punitive measures for those employees who don't start to take positive steps to improve their health.

The good news is, all of this 9-to-5 health care coaching seems to be working.

In a separate survey, Aon Hewitt found that 86 percent of workers who took a health risk quiz and received a personal action plan took at least one healthy step as a result, and 65 percent made at least one lifestyle change. Roughly half of employers surveyed said the health coaching improved worker morale and engagement, and 44 percent noted positive changes in health risks as a result.

To lure out those entrenched slackers who have a fear of treadmills, employers are willing to share the money you'll ultimately save them on health insurance benefits. Aon Hewitt finds that nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, of employers offer between $50 and $500 if you get with the program, and nearly 1 in 5, or 18 percent, offer incentives of more than $500.

What do you think? Are employers overstepping by becoming fitness coaches? Or are they doing the right thing by stepping in to help keep your co-workers healthy and your health insurance premiums in check?

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus

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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.

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1 Comment
January 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm

NO WAY!!!. As someone who suffers from a pre-existing condition, My health care needs are my business. Employers have no business intruding on your private life