A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM)
revealed that employers who provide programs and facilities to insure good healthcare management and healthy living assistance for their employees saw reduced absenteeism from work and improved productivity. Therefore, in Mississippi, which is considered the unhealthiest state in the union, these type programs could create a healthier and stronger environment that in return improves and grows the state’s economic structure.
“The biggest cost most business owners are concerned about is the cost of the health of their employees, workers compensation, and group claims,” said Bruce Martin of Meyer and Rosenbaum Insurance located in Meridian. Finding effective ways to treat people’s health conditions to get them back into a normal life gets them back productive in life. If you take care of someone and stop problems before they become so great and expensive, Bruce added, you’ve helped that person and the employer and the cost to both. This realization spurred Bruce to think differently and take another approach to healthcare insurance.
He met Amy Elliott through the Meridian Freedom Project and seeing her passion for people, he came to her and said, “I’d really like to think outside the box on group health insurance. I’d like for you to come in and learn and see what you can do.”
Amy entered the field of nursing because she wanted to be an advocate for people. But when you’re in the medical profession as a nurse, as a caregiver, she said, it’s really hard to be an advocate for people because you hit walls. “You sort of want to be a social worker, but you have patients that need something and you don’t know how to go about getting it for them.” Many times Amy felt like a peg on a board, present only to change beds and pop meds. Plus, the more educated Amy became, the less patient contact she had. As a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), Amy fed and bathed patients, helped them to the restroom, and changed their sheets. “That was what I loved doing most.” Then Amy attended Southern University and received a four year degree in science and nursing. By the time she finished, she was more into paperwork than doing patient care.
“I was charge nurse at 23 of a nursing home in Meridian. I had 24 staff members under me and 64 grandparents.”
One patient was Amy’s biological grandmother. “On my lunch hour I would go in and feed a patient because I missed that contact,” said Amy. “My CNAs were shocked because I’d actually help someone to the restroom.” According to Amy, there was an air about nurses who were there to service the administration and not the patients. A past supervisor once told Amy to focus on the patient first and everything else will fall into place. That stayed with Amy and that’s what she always did. But the more health insurance monopolized healthcare, the more she realized that no one can truly be an advocate. “I got very frustrated and burned out. “
Finally, Amy took a break from nursing to be a stay-at-home mother. When her children started school, she was ready to enter the workforce again.
Bruce discovered Amy was a very successful person in the medical field as well as the founder of the Freedom Project. He felt anybody with that much passion in life could make a real impact. “A lot of what we are doing in the wellness is attributable to Amy.”
For the first time in 15 years, Amy feels like a patient advocate. “We do not focus on wellness in Mississippi,” she said. “We focus on obesity and high blood pressure, but we don’t’ focus on wellness.” The Southeast has higher rates of ADHD, obesity, and the lowest life expectancy rate. “It’s all correlated,” said Amy. “If an employee is healthy, he or she is more productive and happier.”
The first Meyer and Rosenbaum wellness meeting was at the Southern Pipe plant located in Meridian’s North Industrial Park.
Amy had considered doing a juice bar and discussing healthy eating habits. When the employer said, “Could you do me a favor and explain what a trip to the doctor looks like? Some of my employees have never even been to the doctor. They are terrified to go,” Amy knew what that first meeting needed to be.She brought a doctor to the first workshop and had the employees go through question and answer periods about health while Amy’s team demonstrated how to take blood pressure and oxygen levels. One employee’s blood pressure was 244/120. “We got him to the doctor that day and now he’s on medicine,” said Amy. “Just that wellness checkup could have saved that employer hundreds of thousands of dollars because you’re talking about a possible stroke.”
Southern Pipe Employee Gathering
To Bruce the mission goes even deeper.
“Meridian is home so we want to have a major impact at home as quick as we can.” If an employee you care about is not treated, their blood sugar, blood pressure, all these things become very expensive to treat when they could have been handled very inexpensively.
Rising healthcare costs are out of control. To keep your costs low, you have to make sure your employees are healthy, said Amy. Many employees won’t go to the doctor because it takes three hours to get in and out of a doctor’s office. Meyer and Rosenbaum found an answer to this as well.
“We’ll sign up the employees on this fast pass card and they’ll get in and out of the doctor’s office in 45 minutes because their insurance information will already be there,” said Amy. Employees get a paid day off for their wellness check-up, they see the doctor within a reasonable amount of time, and then have the rest of the day off.
Meyer and Rosenbaum is branding this program and developing group health access to a fast track wellness plan.
In addition, employers have in-service wellness planning, an on-sight nurse that goes in and does blood pressure and whatever else is needed. That’s not all! Amy will also check and verify everything on the employee’s medical bill and if they have questions or problems, she’ll answer and help solve those as well. “I contact insurance companies, finalize their bills and make sure their bills are paid,” she said.
Programs like this will build stronger relationships between the employer and employee. “The most important relationship beyond the employer/employee relationship is the relationship they have with the healthcare provider,” said Bruce. “Think about someone who is intimidated by a medical visit and they’re not intimidated anymore because there is someone to help them. Healthcare shouldn’t be something you’re afraid of. It should be something you want.”
The fear of doctors keeps you from your only lifeline to wellness “Your health is your responsibility,” said Amy. “It is amazing how people get references for childcare sitters or employees or even who’s going to clean out their car, but people will see a doctor blindly.” You need to know if your doctor is an MD or board certified or not. Don’t be afraid to ask for references or check out available resources. There’s a difference in a DO and a MD, said Amy. A DO is more holistic and an MD is more medicine driven. “Both are necessary and very much needed.” Bottom line: you need to know the difference.
What’s important to Meyer and Rosenbaum is helping people understand healthcare, that preventative care is a lot less expensive, and that they have choices.
“We have great resources and healthcare in Meridian, we just need to take better advantage of them,” said Bruce. “We want to help heal Meridian and Mississippi. If we do that, then we bring value to our customers. If we bring value to our customers, then we’ve done our job.”
What Southern Pipe & Supply Chief Financial Officer Marc Ransier has to say:
“Today was important for us because this is our first year for our health and wellness program at Southern Pipe and we recognize that this is the very first step in moving toward making sure that our family members have a relationship with their primary care physician and an engaged relationship with their physician. First, we wanted to make sure they had one. We wanted to show them that doctors aren’t scary and that they are really just like you or me. We wanted to show them how easy it was to find a physician and then second once they find one we wanted to remind them that they have a day off for that visit and that it’s free. We’re really trying to remove all those barriers in having that initial health and wellness visit with their primary care physician and having that every year. The other thing we wanted to do was, for those who already had a primary care physician, be sure that they are engaging with that physician actively. So just don’t tell me my cholesterol is high, tell me about the components of my cholesterol. You educate your folks on how to do their job, you educate your folks around financial issues, what it means to save money, we wanted to educate around health risk factors so they can be engaged in that relationship.”
(See and hear more from CFO Marc Ransier in accompanying video)
Findings from the JOEM Study:
• Workers who ate healthy the entire day were 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
• Workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in the past week were 20 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
• Workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week were 15 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
Learning Healthy Habits
The impact of obesity:
• Job performance was 11 percent higher among those workers who were not obese.
• Workers with well-managed chronic diseases experienced higher productivity than individuals without chronic disease who are obese and do not exercise.
• Obese workers and those with a history of chronic disease and conditions related to pain and activity limitations were also more likely to have recurring absenteeism.
• Obese workers experienced lower job performance and higher absenteeism, compared to workers with depression and other chronic diseases or conditions.