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Alexander: To Really Improve Americans’ Health, Connect Wellness Programs and Employer Insurance

Says there is a remarkable consensus that a healthy lifestyle leads to longer and better lives, reduces health care costs

WASHINGTON, October 19 — Today, Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said, “if we really want to focus on improving Americans’ health, why not connect the consensus on wellness to the insurance policies that 178 million Americans get from their job.”

“There is remarkable consensus that a healthy lifestyle leads to longer and better lives, and reduces the nation’s health care costs,” said Alexander. “Wellness programs that reward behaviors such as exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, or quitting smoking have the potential to save money and improve participants’ health.”

Alexander continued: “The Cleveland Clinic has said if you achieve at least four ‘normal’ measures of good health, such as a healthy body mass index, cholesterol and blood pressure, and you see a primary care physician regularly and keep immunizations up to date, you will avoid chronic disease about 80 percent of the time. This is important because we spend more than 84 percent of our health care costs, or about $2.6 trillion, treating chronic diseases.”

“About 60 percent of insured Americans get their health insurance on the job, so it is hard to think of a better way to make a bigger impact on the health of millions of Americans than to connect the consensus about wellness to employer-based insurance for 178 million people.”

The Senate health committee today held a hearing to look at what can be done to encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices to help prevent serious illnesses and reduce health care costs.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers can offer premium discounts to employees who participated in wellness programs.

Alexander today said, “It was one of the only parts of the ACA on which nearly everyone agreed.  Today’s hearing is about how successful that has been and what we can do to make it easier for employers to encourage their employees to lead healthier lives and reduce health care costs.”

Alexander’s opening statement is available here: