Counselor Commentary: Fight Rising Health Care Costs

Texas Supplier Numo Takes Creative Steps To Stem Rising Costs

Andy CohenThe cost of health care in the United States has grown astronomically in the past generation. This year alone, the U.S. is projected to spend more than $2.8 trillion on health care. In 1993, that number didn't even reach $1 trillion, which means the money we're spending on health care has grown by about 200% in the past 20 years.

That growth rate is obviously not sustainable, and it has been impacting the bottom line of many companies in the U.S. Companies, though, are not completely powerless when it comes to the rapidly rising cost of health care. In fact, some are taking creative and unique steps among their employees to try to stem the rising tide of health care expenses. Take supplier firm Numo (asi/74710), for example. The company was one of 15 that the Counselor Best Places to Work Road Tour visited last week on its cross-country trip. As a supplier firm in Kaufman, TX, which is about an hour outside of Dallas and has a population of about 7,000 people, Numo management does everything it can to attract and retain good employees. So, it provides employees with 100% fully-paid health care. It's most definitely the rare company today that covers the cost of all of its health care plan, and Numo has been hit hard with annual double-digit percent increases.

So, Numo vice president Jim Martin knew he needed to do something to help out both his employees and his company's bottom line. "The age of our people keeps going up, and so does the cost of their health care," he says. What did the company do? It got employees healthy. The company brings in a trainer three times a week, and about 40-50 of its 100 employees can work out with her during the day. That's right. They stop what they're doing for about an hour and work out on site with a trainer who pushes them hard. In addition, the employees can play volleyball or basketball during scheduled break times. And twice a week, Numo brings in a nurse who holds a free clinic to diagnose medical issues (like strep throat) and monitor employees' blood pressure, Body Mass Index, weight, and blood sugar levels – all for free to Numo staffers. "We had people who were pre-diabetic or had other health issues they didn't know about before they started going to the clinic," Martin says. "This has been great, because we can help them before they really get sick."

These wellness measures have certainly helped Numo achieve its original goal, Martin says, of helping the employees save on the cost of health insurance claims. But it has also helped the company's workers get in shape, feel better about themselves, and become even more motivated in the office. “Yes, it has definitely helped us with our health care premiums,” Martin says. “But it has also had a very positive impact on our workplace culture in general.”

You see? Companies don't just have to succumb to the never-ending rise of health care costs. Don't just sit back and accept the annual increases or push more of the percentage of the increases toward employees. Do like Numo, and come up with creative ways to make employees healthier, so they don't need to incur as many health care costs in the first place.