shutterstock_205423492As the nation’s health care bill breaks the $3 trillion mark, it’s hard to imagine anything that would deliver a one-two punch capable of knocking down such unfathomable costs.

After all, experience has taught us that reining-in health care costs takes far more than a jab here and there.  It’s going to take a systematic approach that demands that providers become far more efficient and effective in care delivery, and that employers and employees become vastly more informed consumers of health care services.

Attention Business Leaders:

Business leaders – your job, of knocking down health care costs, begins this minute. You have two, primary areas upon which to focus: 1) Initiatives designed to assess and improve the wellness and well-being of your employees; 2) Efforts to enhance the health literacy of your employees, as well as their ability to function as effective health care consumers. Chances are your HR department has already made significant strides in one or more of these areas, but there’s undoubtedly plenty of room for growth.

The initial steps are preparatory, and require that you:

  • Collaborate with your HR department (and any external employee benefits consulting groups that are actively engaged) to inventory all existing efforts related to wellness, well-being, health literacy, and enhancing health care consumerism.
  • Understand the metrics for measuring the impact of these efforts, and the corresponding gains that have been achieved since their implementation.
  • Review any employee surveys that have been conducted to assess attitudes and or interest in these topics – including reactions to proposed incentives or disincentives for participation in various health-related activities.

It’s Time to Plan:

Now that you know what has been done to-date, it’s time to develop a strategic plan that delineates additional methods for taking-down health care costs. Since you want the most efficient and effective strategies, a good place to start is with low-hanging fruit. In this case, that means identifying those areas where there is ample opportunity for improvement.

Begin by answering the following questions:

  • Do you have a cogent understanding of the health and well-being of your employed population – including: a stratified risk-profile of your employees derived from an HRA and/or biometric screening?
  • If so, what can be gleaned from this data to help you keep healthy employees healthy, while doing an ever better job of intervening to help manage chronic illness in the higher-risk population?
  • Do you have an effective program for managing chronic disease that is based upon best practices?
  • Have you assessed the health literacy of your employed populations, and implemented efforts to improve it?
  • Have you begun an educational effort to assist your employees in making value-driven decisions when selecting providers, choosing among treatment options, or requesting a prescription?
  • Have you aligned the incentives in your health plan to reinforce the behavior you hope to foster?


The more you, as a leader, understand about maximizing employee health, while reducing costs, the better prepared you will be to implement innovative strategies that are beneficial to the employee as well as your organization.

Leaders interested in becoming far more educated regarding the true nature of our health care system, may enjoy reading: The Myths of Modern Medicine: The Alarming Truth About American Health Care,Rowman & LIttlefield Publisher (2014). Author: John Leifer. It is available on