Once upon a time in a life that existed before lung cancer I was a somewhat successful businessperson. I ran large box retail stores and had a pretty good track record as far as running a successful business. In this fairytale world I once lived in, I asked people to do things, they in turn asked people to do things who in turn asked people to do things, not a bad gig as I remember it.
When you manage one of these large establishments that can host a workforce somewhere between two to four hundred people you find yourself selling more ideas then you do stuff. You, as the manager, have to sell corporate philosophies and programs to the employees who are looking to you everyday for the direction the ship will be traveling in. You sell the image of pricing and cleanliness and trustworthiness to the consumer in an effort to sell them on who you are and what you represent. You sell an image to the community that you are involved in the things that are important to your neighbors. When all these things fall into place, then you are free to sell stuff.
Once upon a time, I sold stuff.
As a person who managed a lot of people who sold stuff, I was very conscious and aware of the bottom line and the things that affected the bottom line profit of my business. Payroll, health care, benefits, depreciation, freight transportation the list of expenses, the cost of doing business increase along with your business and if your not careful, you can easily find your expense lines over shadowing your profit lines. There is an art to planning and budgeting for the big picture.
Because I was taught by some very talented people along the way, I learned how to manage the financial end of things, what to look for how to make it all work, how to keep one eye on the big picture and one on today’s business. I also worked for a few morons who lacked vision, guts and integrity and therefore also stamped their initials onto my career. Here’s a tip for you for free, You can learn something from everyone, sometimes learning what not to do is just as important as learning what to do.
One thing I must admit that I never spent much time worrying about or looking for ways to control was health care costs and lost time costs. As far as I have always been concerned, it’s a cost of doing business. Once I was forced to give up my career and started looking for ways to help others with cancer, I started discovering some pretty big facts. Usually I direct my thoughts to cancer patients or their families, with this article I am shooting for something a little different so stick with me because sometimes I do tend to take the long way home.
What I would like to do now is direct my focus to the managing bodies of business that make decisions on health care plans for their employees. This also goes out to the employee who was hired to perform a task or group of tasks to the best of their ability. I don’t want anyone to feel left out of this conversation.
We need to talk about the costs related to smoking in the workplace and couple them together with both the employers responsibility to provide adequate insurance coverage for cessation programs and the employees responsibility to use them.
I was once a smoker in the workplace. I was also the manager in the workplace so I get to cover both sides, plus it’s my article so your going to get my opinions backed by facts provided mostly from a report commissioned by the American Legacy Foundation and produced by Milliman Consultants and Actuaries.
Let’s set a tone shall we. Let me tell you things you might already know, read them again anyway and please don’t get offended if you are currently a smoker because this article is not an attack on you it’s about a much larger picture.
On the business end of things. Smoking adds well over $165 billion to healthcare and disability costs each year. $92 million dollars of that figure are attributed to lost productivity resulting from smoking attributable diseases. In the 2004 report, The Health Consequences of Smoking, the Surgeon General concluded that there was enough evidence to show a relationship between smoking and an extensive list of diseases beyond lung cancer. It was also concluded that quitting smoking would have immediate as well as long-term benefits including reducing the risk for many of those diseases.
Let’s pull the magnifying glass in a little closer and make it a little more personal shall we? In 2002 it was estimated that 22.5% of all adults were smokers somewhere in that timeframe it was estimated that 25% of the typical working age population smoke. The highest percentage being men ages 30 to 34. For women the primary age group is between 35 and 39. Both groups started to show reduction in numbers at age 50 any idea why? How about this thought. An increased prevalence of smoking related diseases in this age group making them say “Holy Crap” I better stop smoking. So I believe that it is safe to speculate that the threat of a life altering or ending disease can become a pretty good motivating factor in your willingness to quit.
Staying on the employer’s side of the fence for a few more minutes.
Each employee or dependant who quits smoking reduces annual medical and life insurance costs by at least $210 almost immediately.
An employee who quits smoking reduces their risk for Coronary Heart Disease and pneumonia over the first ten years of quitting the stroke risk is greatly reduced over a fifteen-year period. Just looking at the cost for the employer for an employee who has a Coronary Heart Disease event the three years surrounding the event can cost in the neighborhood of $94,000. Stroke, lung cancer, heart disease are the major cost factors of course but then there are things like Childhood respiratory diseases caused from second hand smoke in the home as well as the costs associated with lower birth rates and the hundred other illnesses you can attribute to smoking.
To sum up the employers end of things.
The cost of health care even in the short term, let’s say the employee who stays with you from one to five years could be effectively reduced by adding a comprehensive and effective smoking cessation plan to your health plan. A good program that provides the proper support, both professional support as well as pharmaceutical support might cost your business $0.50 per member per month and save you thousands.
What? I’m sorry I did not quiet hear your statement, would you mind repeating it?
“You can’t force someone to use that benefit and if they don’t use it what good is it.” Fair statement.
I heard you that time. Let me try to answer that for you. First of all you offer it in your benefit package because you care about your employees and their families and you want them to live the best life possible. The long term benefits of a solid smoking cessation program by and far outweighs the costs. You set a great example for your business and what you stand for. You also reduce your costs related to lost productivity expenses as well as health care expenses.
By simply adding a genetic test like Respiragene to the plan you can greatly increase your employees desire to follow through with the cessation plan.
If you placed 100 smokers in a room and asked for a show of hands from how many of them would like to quit, 70 hands would go up. Unfortunately as few as five people out of that 70 would actually follow through that year. Most of those people will not stop until a life altering disease forces them to make that decision, remember our over 50 friends?
If you offer the Respiragene test so that an individual could have a clearer view of what their future could hold by accessing their risk for lung cancer, it becomes another motivating factor to complete a cessation program.
To the business owner and the corporate world I leave you with this .A minor increase to the cost of your heath care package this year will show financial benefits within the next three years.
Now if you will excuse me I have to talk to your work forces for a minute.
I do not want to preach to you about smoking, smoking is your decision and only you can make the decision to start or stop, but I do want to offer up a couple of things. Here come some opinions interwoven with an occasional fact or two.
In the workplace first of all, you miss more work then the non-smokers, you cost more money to insure then the non-smokers and if memory serves me correctly your productivity is challenged by your supervisor more then your non-smoking co-worker. You are far more likely to be struck by some earth shattering disease then your non-smoking co-worker. You my friend are more likely to punch in late for work and leave early then your non-smoking co-worker and don’t get me started on lunches and breaks. Some places don’t mind things like that, others think about those things when it comes time for raises, promotions, lay offs etc. If lives were dollars and let’s not kid ourselves in some businesses that’s what they are, you my friend are not the best investment out there.
The cost of cigarettes continues to climb. Here’s a for instance, If the average pack of smokes cost $7.00 a pack, you smoke 5 packs per week, (we all know the amount you smoke per week is determined by a large variety of factors) but let’s go on these numbers, $35.00 per week multiplied by 52 weeks, your paying $1800 to $2000 a year to smoke. Now if you start adding in things like co pays for insurance and the fact that your life insurance is probably a little more expensive then Mr. non-smoker. You are missing more work time as a result of smoking related illness therefore affecting your paycheck and possibly your benefits in a negative fashion.
The positive financial impact you could have for yourself immediately could be amazing and again times are tough every dime helps.
The impact on your health and the health of your family if they are being subjected to second hand smoke is almost immediate in some cases.
Your long-term health outlook will begin to become more favorable in a matter of years.
If you have tried to stop in the past but have failed, I would suggest you go back and look at some of the newer options.
If your employer offers you a smoking cessation program as part of your health plan then there is defiantly no reason not to try if you are a part of that 70% that would like to quit. If you are offered the Respiragene test which is non-invasive and can be performed by your doctor with a simple swab of the inside of your mouth and a very short questionnaire, by all means take it.
There is no cure for lung cancer, someday there will be, but for now we need to continue to look for ways for you to avoid it, and the earlier you start the better off you will be.
A couple of other thoughts and then I will let you get back to your life.
Remember when I told you about the around 50 year old group who had a significant decline in smoking and that it was they who were probably starting to have health issues related to smoking?
If you’re around 50 and having health difficulties due to smoking, at what age do you think those difficulties started. When did the first instance of COPD show up in your lung? Was it 40 something? Late thirty something? I was diagnosed with lung cancer prior to turning 40. By the time something bad is cooking, chances are it had been in the oven for a while.
If you are in your thirties it is a perfect time for the Respiragene test. It will tell you if you are a moderate, high or very high risk for lung cancer. Your best way to beat lung cancer is to avoid it all together and an early analysis of your genetic makeup and family history could very easily save your life ten years down the road.
The last thing I will leave you with is this. Smoking is not the only reason you get cancer and just because you smoke does not mean you are going to contract cancer. The facts show that 85% of lung cancer cases occur within smokers and ex-smokers, that is a fact and I would like to change that. That being said there are so many other things going on in the air and food around us, the medications that are supposed to be treating us for one problem are in turn killing us with side effects. Is anyone keeping track of the food recalls? There is a lot more at play these days then just smoking. The reason smoking is an issue to me is that it is something in your life you can control. In a world that seems to be steadily spinning out of control. And controlled by people who probably aren’t as concerned with your well being as you are.
Quitting smoking might be one of the toughest fights you’ll ever face. Smoking is not only highly addictive; it becomes a part of your life’s routine embedding itself into your work day, dominating your free time and becoming a part of many of your daily decisions. I will tell you that the toughest fight you will ever face is the day you find yourself fighting for air because your lungs have collapsed due to a combination of COPD, lung cancer and pneumonia. You can prevent that by taking the proper steps now.
Your company can assist you by providing you with a smoking cessation plan that provides you with the support you need. We might not be able to cure lung cancer with this approach but we can defiantly slow it down considerably. So for now my friends keep one eye on your health today, and one eye on the big picture, your long term health.