Healthy Outlook

This article accompanies The Age Factor.

Thursday, September 19, 2013
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With the high cost of healthcare already plaguing employers, the notion of providing coverage to an increasingly older workforce has human resource managers understandably concerned. After all, increasing age often brings chronic health problems, orthopedic surgeries and expensive medications.

While he readily admits healthcare "absolutely does" cost more to provide to older workers, Marty Nowlin, vice president of human resources for North America at Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup, says much of those costs are related to routine preventative procedures, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, rather than catastrophic illnesses or surgeries. Nowlin is so bullish on promoting wellness, he considered it a good thing when Manpower's finance department noted an increase in prescription drug costs.

"That told me people were following their wellness plans," says Nowlin. "They were taking their blood pressure or cholesterol medicine. That's something we want to see."

Wellness is also a major focus at La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps Health, where Senior Vice President for Innovation, Human Resources and Performance Management Vic Buzachero concedes seeing "larger consumptions of healthcare expenditures for our more senior group." For that population, Scripps' wellness program focuses on reducing the risk of age-related diseases such as high blood pressure that can be minimized through lifestyle choices, like giving up smoking, losing weight or reducing stress. Incenting employees with perks such as free health insurance has led to a near 70 percent participation rate, an achievement Buzachero says has been critical to reducing the cost of healthcare among its older workers.

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"When older employees minimize their risk factors, they incur more normal healthcare costs than the standard senior population," he says.

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