The timeline for overhauling the nation's health care system is clear, and spelled out in black and white. However, the drama surrounding reform has created a muddled mess. The failed repeal effort grabbed national headlines for months and legal challenges to reform are surely heading to the nation's top court. But for employers working to comply with the new law, there are more immediate concerns related to new regulations, the forthcoming exchanges, possible penalties, and as-yet-undefined minimum benefit levels.
Doug McLaren has been an engineer and business analyst in Boeing's commercial aircraft division for the past 31 years. It's a job he enjoys and is good at, but for the past 20 years, he's also taken on an unwanted second job: managing a chronic pulmonary disease. The illness, he says, is well controlled, but a constant burden and worry just the same.
Employers convinced there is no more low-hanging fruit, with respect to keeping employees healthy and controlling health care costs, may just need to think low-tech. Health risk assessments (HRAs) can help people get needed care when it can do the most good—before problems escalate. But just offering an HRA (as 60% of large employers do) isn't a cure-all. To really make a difference, employers must ensure that employees fill out the HRA and then follow up appropriately.