One of my all-time favourite movies sums up my theory on life with the phrase “be excellent to each other”. I really believe that is what it is all about, even in healthcare. If we are all excellent to each other, we may not be able to cure diseases, but we can make living with some of them easier.
And, with my rose-coloured glasses firmly in place, I believe this is the intent of both wellness programs and the Canadian healthcare system.
In a strange twist, the excellence of both of these concepts is under attack in the U.S.
In Canada, we have not yet embraced wellness to the same degree as in the U.S. nor connected wellness to a carrot and stick approach. AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, recently launched legal action against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that determines what employers can do, claiming the carrot was discriminatory. The basis of their case is that at the allowed limit of 30% of the annual cost of health coverage, the carrot is potentially a substantial amount of money, with estimates running up to $2,000. AARP is arguing that wellness programs may expose workers’ private medical information and that, with such a large incentive, participation in not truly voluntary.
After giving this a little thought, I can see how this could be construed as discriminatory toward older workers who are more likely to have a pre-existing medical condition. Looking at the bigger picture though, I can see it could be one opportunity in a benefit plan to provide a benefit to young, healthy workers who believe Life and Disability insurance is a waste of money. It reinforces that age old philosophy of insurance where everyone pays a little in the hope that they never need it. Young and healthy workers contribute to the cost of Life and Disability that they don’t need, but receive the benefit of the bigger incentive, while older and less healthy workers who receive a smaller incentive contribute to the cost of the plan at a level reflective of their risk.
While this seems like a win-win to me, I think AARP is highlighting some valid concerns. Employees should not be required to disclose confidential medical information to their employer, unless it is relevant to their ability to perform the duties of their obligation.
The Canadian healthcare system is an insurance-type plan that is also based on everyone contributing, while only some benefit. It is a bit ironic that we refer to an insurance payout as a benefit, when really the best case scenario is that you never need it at all. Our healthcare system is something Canadians truly cherish. It has become part of the fabric of our nation and to hear politicians in the U.S. calling it “catastrophic” gets my hackles up.
Ours is a system that supports us in being excellent to each other. If you or your children need to see a doctor, there is no need to worry about how you will pay for food. Statistics show that Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans. Could that be a reflection of a system that doesn’t work? Our system supports citizens with annual check-ups, maternity and newborn care and high quality treatment for the most serious of illnesses. Do we have to wait sometimes? Yes. But, in the interest of being excellent to each other, I will wait patiently to see a doctor for that sore shoulder that has been bothering me for a few weeks so she can treat people with serious illnesses. Do I resent the wealthy who leave the country for treatment? Not at all. As I see it, this frees up resources like doctors and hospitals for others and I applaud them for going.
In the end, wellness plans and public healthcare are both perfect examples of how to be excellent to each other. Supporting the health of people, physically, mentally and financially makes the world a better place.
Stay well and be excellent to someone today!
Lizann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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