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Prevention Success Starts with Education

It’s a common-sense notion that if you want to keep your employees from racking up huge costs on your company’s health care bill, you should help them prevent or treat the illness before it becomes a chronic and costly problem.

Many employees, however, still seem to be stuck in the dark when it comes to the true costs and benefits of preventive services.

For example, employees in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) have a history of failing to take advantage of preventive care services, and a new study reveals why: Many workers think their deductible applies to all doctor visits, including preventive appointments.

The study by Kaiser Permanente and reported by Kaiser Health News, that fewer than one in five polled California employees enrolled in HDHPs understood that preventive services were either fully covered or mostly covered under their plans.

“Patients usually have a pretty limited understanding of the details of their health insurance plan,” Mary Reed of Kaiser Permanente toldKHN. “Even when plans are designed well or thoughtfully, if patients don’t understand they probably won’t behave accordingly.”

For employers and employees, a lack of preventive care can turn into higher costs in the long term, but employers have a short-term incentive to push preventive services, a new study reported by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests.

The report notes that solid health promotion efforts that prevent health risks can result in a drop in health costs in the first year of implementation. While employers can’t reduce the presence of high-cost cases entirely, “an ongoing focus on prevention can benefit the entire population by avoiding chronic disease altogether,” which can lead to an average savings of $100 in costs per employee per eliminated health risk during the first year, the study’s authors told SHRM.

Luckily for employers, workers are eager to become better health consumers and take charge of their own health, according to a survey by Wolters Kluwer Health, as reported in Becker’s Hospital Review. The survey found that 80 percent of respondents said the idea of employees taking more responsibility for their own health is a positive trend, and 76 percent said they already possess the right tools to become skilled health consumers.