No matter your view on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “ObamaCare”), there’s no denying that it’s here to stay.   The November election and Supreme Court decision this past summer solidified the Act – it’s now a matter of implementation.     While specific provisions of the act (and the efficacy of government involvement) will be debated long into the future, the broader and laudable goal of the PPACA is to change the way healthcare works.   In short, the Act seeks to change healthcare from the “break-fix” model to a system that is focused on prevention.

This will be no easy task.   For years, people have been conditioned to only seek medical care when confronted with symptoms of disease.   Physicians diagnose the problem (or what they think is the problem) and come up with treatment options ranging from simple prescriptions to invasive surgery.   Oh, and they will probably throw in an admonition on lifestyle change – something like “lose 30 lbs and quit smoking”.   Then, the patient (your employee) leaves the office and resumes their life.   They are generally back in their doctor’s office in the not-to-distant future.

So, how does the PPACA change all of this?

It all starts with you, the employer.

Like it or not, you are now on the front lines of healthcare reform.   It’s up to you to educate employees on how to change their lifestyle to include healthy options for eating and exercise.  It’s up to you to provide the pathways that enable change.   It’s up to you to develop incentive programs that drive change.

Here are three steps to get started:

1)      Get your executives involved.     Everyone says this, but it’s 100% necessary.   Employees are looking for leadership and will see through any program that is not fully supported by senior executives in the company.

2)      Devise a company-wide communications plan about health issues.  This should include regular communications about your benefits program and education on how to eat better, get more exercise, and reduce stress.

3)      Develop an incentive program that gets employee’s attention.    Coffee cups and t-shirts are great, but to really drive change you need to put some $$ behind your program.   The PPACA has provisions for rewarding healthy behaviors and outcomes.

The good news is that there are many tools to help you in this mission.   Start with your insurance company representative or broker.   Wellness consulting firms can also play an important role.

We’re always here to help as well.