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How it Pays to Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

Vera Gibbons
Cost of living
How it Pays to Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

It’s not easy staying healthy and fit, but it is cheaper than the alternative. The CDC says obese people pay almost $1500 more in health costs each year. Those with diabetes face more than double the health care costs of those without the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association .

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Employers are also shouldering this burden, with higher healthcare costs and lost productivity. That’s why, by next year, about 8 out of 10 larger companies will be paying their employees to get healthy.

“We’re heavier, we’re more sedentary, we don’t eat right, so employers put programs in place to get people to hopefully change their behavior, become healthier, and over time, spend less of their money on health care, and less of the company’s money on health care,” says Jim Winkler, AON Hewitt’s Health Management Practice Leader.

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Pitney Bowes introduced its wellness program nearly ten years ago. Today, it offers bonuses of up to $1,000 a year to employees and their partners for meeting - or working toward meeting - target levels of body mass, blood sugar and cholesterol.

“Any time we can help our employees or their families be healthier, so they aren’t spending as much money and they can come to work, it’s a win-win both for them--they are healthier, and happier--and we have productive workers who are coming in,” says Andrew Gold, Pitney Bowes’ Vice President, Total Rewards.

The company also offers checkups at an on-site health clinic at its Stamford, Connecticut headquarters, and even group workouts at the company gym. Employees can compete for prizes by logging the most miles on treadmills or walking trails.

But some companies are choosing to penalize their workers for unhealthy habits, or for refusing to improve their health.

For example, CVS made headlines when it announced $600 fines on employees who refused an annual health evaluation. And, nearly half of employers require smokers to pay an extra $50 a month for health insurance coverage, according to a Towers Watson survey.

While wellness programs can be beneficial, read the fine print when your company’s enrollment period comes around so that you understand what’s expected of you. And, if pre-existing conditions prevent you from reaching your company’s targets, know that you have the right to consult with your doctor to create a set of alternatives.

Do you have a health and wellness program where you work? Tell us about it! Find me on Twitter @veragibbons, and use the hashtag, #costofliving.