FIRMS TRY TO PREDICT HEALTH OF WORKERS
June 16, 2005
An emerging science called predictive modeling allows companies to analyze claims data and information on employee lifestyles to control health care costs and keep their employees healthy, says the Chicago Tribune.
Advocates claim that "advances in technology make it possible to predict with growing accuracy which employees are at high risk for serious illness in the next two years."
Through questionnaires that ask about smoking, seat belt use, diet, exercise and occasionally mental health, employers can evaluate employees' health risk:
- From the data, employers can adjust copayments or health insurance options to improve access to care.
- Some companies combine assessments with intervention programs that involve phone calls to employees to discuss their health.
- Overall, about 35 percent of large employers offered health risk assessments to employees last year, compare to 27 percent in 2003, according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
Opponents, however, say employees might feel obligated to participate in prevention programs or feel that they could lose their job if they fall into a high-cost category. Another issue is whether employers will allocate spending on predictive models that provide more accurate calculations for return on investment.
Additionally, opponents worry about privacy issues. But, some employers offer lower premiums for those who participate, which is an incentive that becomes a form of privacy tax. They also say that they only look at aggregate data and rely on outside firms to work confidentially with individuals.
Source: Barbara Rose, "Firms try to predict health of workers," Chicago Tribune, May 31, 2005.
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