Wellness

Lowering Medical Costs

Save money with paid sick leave, preventive dental and vision care

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It’s a common dilemma: You get sick while at work, or a child or family member calls because they are ill and need to see the doctor – what are your choices?

Some workers have the flexibility of paid sick leave to handle health issues. But for approximately 44 million American workers without this benefit, they have to wait until after work hours to visit a hospital emergency room (ER) or an urgent care facility to deal with the concern.

According to a July 2011 Institute for Women’s Policy Research study, giving workers access to paid sick days would reduce visits to the ER, saving about $1 billion annually in unnecessary medical costs.

Employees with sick leave benefits tend to schedule appointments with their doctor to care for health issues instead of going to the ER. Consider these other facts:

  • More than two-thirds of workers earning $10 an hour do not have access to sick leave, while 80 percent of individuals earning more than $25 hourly do have sick leave benefits
  • Americans spend about $47 billion annually on ER services
  • Many ER visits could be handled through a doctor’s office, health clinic or urgent care facility
  • Approximately $550 million of preventable medical costs are covered by taxpayers through public health insurance programs
  • If medical concerns are handled when symptoms first appear, individuals usually recover faster, avoid expensive medical treatments and minimize spreading infections illnesses to others
  • Sick children are dependent on their parents for medical care; workers without sick leave benefits often wait until after work hours to take care of their kids’ health concerns, but what happens when daycare or school nurses ask parents to pick up their sick child(ren)?

Lower Medical Costs with Preventive Dental and Vision Care

Businesses can also lower medical costs by offering employees access to dental and vision insurance benefits, and encouraging them to schedule regular checkups. During the exam, doctors will evaluate the vision and oral health of employees and their family members, identify treatment solutions and detect potential medical concerns.

Dental problems: the cost of oral health

Employers concerned with the productivity and performance of their employees recognize these hidden costs of oral health problems:

  • Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease for American kids, affecting more than one-fourth of those ages 2-5 and half of those ages 12-15; parents often take time off to care for kids with an oral health issue
  • One-fourth of U.S. adults age 65 and older have lost all of their teeth
  • Each year about 35,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed
  • Employees miss approximately 164 million work hours annually due to oral health problems

Better oral health care with dental insurance

The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that: “Access to dental insurance is a strong predictor of regular use of a dental professional. Offering dental benefits and encouraging employees to use them can go a long way in protecting the most precious resource a company has… its people.”

Vision problems: A growing concern

Eye problems are the second-most prevalent health concern in the United States, affecting more than 120 million adults. Vision loss is among the top 10 causes of disability, with an estimated 60 million Americans at risk. As workers age, eye diseases often increase.

According to Prevent Blindness America, each year the total economic impact of adult vision problems is approximately $51.4 billion, costing businesses an estimated $8 billion annually due to lost employee work hours and reduced productivity.

Vision benefits help lower medical costs

Surveys by the American Optometric Association show that businesses with vision plans save up to $7 for every $1 spent for coverage costs. And the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employers spend only $70 to $80 per employee annually for premium vision insurance benefits, compared to thousands of dollars in medical premiums.

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