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The cost of healthcare has really gone up and people are finding it hard to provide themselves with proper medical care. The issues of healthcare costs manifested themselves during the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama and John McCain prior to the presidential elections in 2008. This shows the magnitude of this issue. Even though politicians use such issues to popularize themselves, in the larger context they have nothing to offer and it is therefore, the organization's responsibility to explore ways in which to reduce these high costs. The organization that I am going to look at in this research paper is Lowe's Companies.
The arguments on this research paper are meant to explore ways in which Lowe's Companies can reduce healthcare costs accorded to its employees. Lowe's Companies is an organization that deals with home improvement equipments such as appliances, tools, hardware, paint and flooring goods. The organization has many employees amounting to about 238,000 (Lowes.com 2010).
Healthcare Measures in Place
The company has both full time and part time employees. According to the organization's website (Lowers.com 2010), these employees are provided with both health and life insurance and thus, it is the employee's decision to decide which kind of healthcare cover benefits fits him/her. The employees also can choose to be covered by a wellness or a critical illness cover.
In March 2010, the company in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic in Ohio decided to give free medical surgeries at no extra costs to its full time employees (Lowes.com 2010). Dependants of these full time employees were also to enjoy this kind of services if they were on self-insured medical cover plan. The organization meets traveling and accommodation expenses for its patient employee and any companion they may be with. In this way, the company argues that it is able to control and reduce its costs on healthcare while at the same time enabling its employees to access affordable and quality healthcare (Lowes.com 2010).
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The company has also launched a mobile health unit which is supposed to run for the next two and a half years to provide more than 70,000 employees in the United States with basic healthcare. The health mobile unit is basically for screening of blood pressure, body mass index cholesterol levels and other health indicators. Guidance and counseling on how to live a health life is also to be provided to its employees (Lowes.com 2010). The program is meant to address all areas of health including one's lifestyle, nutrition, diet, exercise and on how to manage stress. To make it a success, the organization meets all the costs and awards redeemable points to employees who participate in the exercise. The same kind of program was carried last year which was based on encouraging its employees to stop smoking. It was a big success in that it is estimated more than seven thousand employees and their dependents quit smoking (Lowes.com 2010).
Measures to Reduce Healthcare Costs
Employees of the organization must be given room to take control of their health. Since it is seen that Lowes almost entirely covers the health issues of its employees who are so many, the organization should strive to make its employees understand the huge amount of costs associated with one's health and wellness. The organization's awareness communication should be crystal clear to make employees be conscious on the costs the organization incurs due to their risky health practices. Whatever they do should be health wise and not base their decisions on that their medical issues are covered by the organization. Thus making employees change their behavior in matters relating to risky health to a good health will greatly reduce the organization's healthcare costs. These measures are purely positive and have no negative legal implications (Gallup 2010).
As it has been seen, the company entirely meets the medical expenses of its employees. The company should therefore consider introducing cost sharing measures. The human nature is that we tend to abuse things that are freely accorded to us. If we don't feel the pinch of contributing, then why should we care? Making employees contribute even on a small percentage scale will awaken them. They will be aware that if they engage in a risky health behavior, then they will have to incur costs in treating themselves. However, such measures may elicit court battles since the employees are used to free medical care and beginning to task them with such an expense will be met with the most lethal resistance. But the risk is worth taking since in the long run the organization will reduce costs and this will translate to wide profit margins (Gallup 2010).
According to Gallup's chief operating officer, Jane Miller (Gallup 2010) during an interview with Bryant Ott, employees must be made to feel that they are the owners of their healthcare costs and as such consider it as an investment. Emotional means should be planted into employees minds such that they will be conscious on cost implications of their poor health behaviors. Miller says that a health communication issue should not be like any other communication (Gallup 2010). It should be communicated in such a way that it will emotionally move the receiver. In that way, the communication will have achieved its main purpose. Lowes should therefore make employees aware that a healthcare plan is one of their investments and should be treated with utmost respect and importance it deserves. The result of not taking care of their health should be communicated in such a way that it elicits emotional resonance (Gallup 2010). They should be helped to practice good health practices and behaviors. The individual economic factors should also be strongly used to convince Lowes employees to embrace good healthcare practices. Employees always respond positively when they realize their Bosses are taking their interests at heart and are willing to help them improve their lifestyles. Such measures are positive indicators and have no negative legal implications.
The organization should also strive to improve safety conditions in the work place to avoid any unnecessary accidents that will translate to medical care expenses (Stratford, J.S.2009). I am not implying that there are no safety measures at Lowes, but whatever measures are there should be beefed up with new ones that are more effective. Employees should frequently be exposed to safety drills to ensure that stupid and unnecessary accidents do not take place. Safety also comes in when the employees of an organization are well trained on their job, are healthy and focused on what they are doing. Medical figures show that stress, depression, weight and fatigue go hand in hand with safety issues (Gallup 2010). If these factors are not checked such that they are at an allowable medical recommendation, then the organization will have to incur extra costs of treating accident victims. They may also be drawn into the court corridors if accident victims demand compensation or if the organization's safety standards do no meet the international requirements.
The organization should also build a fitness center for its staff to keep fit. Since it has many employees throughout the United States, the fitness center should not be only at its headquarters but also at its major outlets for easy accessibility (Stratford, J.S.2009) . The organization should continuously carry out risk assessment and how its employees are responding to wellness improvement program on such major issues such as overweight, chronic smoking and inactivity. During such sessions, the organization should offer more information on good living and the positive implications of healthy living. Such measures have major advantages and go a long way in reducing healthcare costs. There is no negative legal implication on such matters of observing the employee's health.
The organization should provide access, tools and incentives to employees who are taking good care of themselves. Provision of healthcare savings accounts, PPO insurance and health reimbursement accounts as options of choice would go in a big way to encourage employees take care of their health and in the larger spectrum reduce healthcare costs of an organization. Preventive measures of fighting diseases should be encouraged and the importance of it communicated comprehensively to the employees. This will encourage employees to take care of themselves and it has no negative legal implications.
The organization might have to research on the medical cover they are providing and others that are on offer by other organization. In such an endeavor, they need to compare the prices and quality of such covers. If there is a medical cover out there which is cheaper and of a good quality, almost or better than theirs, then they will have to go for it since in general, healthcare costs have really gone up (Porter & Teisberg, 2006). However, if theirs is the best in the market and is costly, then they will have to explore other means like the ones discussed above to reduce the healthcare care costs. I f they go on to adopt a cover which is less costly but of poor quality, then they will find themselves in court since employees will not agree to such terms. Such a scenario is not acceptable since it will imply that they will incur extra court process costs and damaging report on their image.
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The organization can also set up health centers throughout its major outlets. These health centers or clinics will be able to handle small health matters instead of burdening the organization with taking a patient employee to a big hospital whose charges are high. These health centers should be well equipped with medications and staffed with qualified and trained personnel. This will not only reduce the cost of treatment but will also save on transport cost, time and life. Some cases might be small and need urgent medical attention but if they are not attended to immediately, then the result becomes catastrophic and might even lead to death.
The organization might also consider on cutting coverage of health insurance of employees (Porter, E., Teisberg, O.E. 2006). This will definitely be met with much resistance but the employer can ask employees to contribute. Dental and vision health coverage are usually quite expensive. On such cases, the organization will have to talk to its employees and find out whether they would agree to meet the costs on cost sharing basis. This will greatly reduce the cost which the organization might incur. Healthcare savings accounts also come in handy in such matters and the employees might be asked to consider such an option. The organization should therefore consult before carrying out such an activity otherwise; it will face the irate employees in court.
Healthcare costs have really gone up (Porter, E., Teisberg, O.E. 2006) and it is the responsibility of an organization to take every necessary measure, in line with the law to find a solution of reducing these high costs. The organization should consultatively involve workers in its decision making on such matters to avoid workers outcry. Human beings, by nature, will do anything to resist any change they see to be unfavorable. If no consultation is made, the organization will find itself in court or worse still, workers will resolve to strike. This will translate to huge losses to the organization and in the end a tainted image.
This research has explored the different ways in which an organization can reduce healthcare costs. However, the following is the most notable point that organization can consider to implement. An organization of any size can put in place a consumer conscious care plan. These changes should be gradual and needs greater commitment than it meets the naked eye. Organization leaders should use vivid explanation and educate their employees on the need to take care of their health. The communication should be such that the employees understand that good practices lead to healthier living, enables one to participate fully in nation building and at the same time reducing the costs that they spend in medical hospitals and health centers.