Updated: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 01:10

What the NFL can teach us about health care reform

Photo provided Former NFL professional athlete and UGA graduate Matt Stinchcomb serves as a client executive in the Atlanta office of Savannah-based Seacrest Partners
Photo provided Former NFL professional athlete and UGA graduate Matt Stinchcomb serves as a client executive in the Atlanta office of Savannah-based Seacrest Partners
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The march to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII is on! This year’s big event provides a welcome diversion from narrowly averted fiscal cliffs, but it also provides an interesting opportunity to look at the impact of health care reform on employer sponsored benefits. What in the world does health care reform have to do with which team hoists the Lombardi trophy, you ask?

“Can’t help the club in the tub…”

Fundamentally, professional sports franchises are no different than any other business enterprise: They offer a product for which there is demand, and they employ a workforce to produce this product. Few businesses, if any, are more keenly aware of the importance of a healthy workforce than professional sports organizations.

This awareness has led to the investment of millions of dollars in “wellness initiatives” in the form of state-of-the-art workout and training facilities, on-site clinics, nutritionists, conditioning coaches and team physicians.

Why?

You don’t have to be a head football coach to know that healthy, physically fit players are more productive, more focused and less prone to injury than sickly, unconditioned ones.

However, simply having a gleaming new weight room, setting a training table that looks like an organic produce stand and hiring a medical, training and conditioning staff that would make NASA jealous is meaningless if players don’t utilize them.

Barbells don’t lift themselves, surgically repaired knees don’t return to “good as new” on their own, and all those bananas will have to be thrown out if they go uneaten. If players don’t take advantage of the services offered, the team’s “wellness” investment will rot like a bad head of lettuce.

An unused wellness program is dead weight, a straightforward expense with no return. (No offense Tech fans, but this YouTube clip, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYeiNACw_zk, says it all.) On the other hand, a wellness program that is actually used provides unimaginable returns and dividends.

Expense vs. investment

So how does all this relate to your business? Health care reform is causing employers of all sizes to evaluate the logic of offering health benefits to employees. In lieu of providing benefits, some employers are now considering adjusting pay and leaving the purchasing decision to employees.

But viewing benefit packages solely as an expense misses the point. Employers need to look at their benefit plans and wellness initiatives from the same perspective as NFL teams: Wellness (and the corresponding benefits required to generate a healthy team/workforce) is an investment in productivity, profitability and success.

In competitive sports, every player fills an important role in the team’s success. From quarterback to holder, winning hinges on each individual performing to his utmost ability, each must meet his individual goals for the greater good of the team.

In business, the evidence is just as clear: Companies that emphasize “wellness” have more engaged and healthy workforces that are far more productive and loyal than the workforces of employers that simply provide paychecks and exhibit no concern for employee health and well being.

The ROI

By taking steps to assist employees and their dependents in living healthier lifestyles, your business will benefit through higher productivity (less sick time and presenteeism), better focus (fewer on-the-job injuries) and lower turnover (satisfied employees).

Each attribute translates directly to your bottom line through enhanced customer satisfaction, improved operating efficiencies and, ultimately, greater profitability.

It’s enticing to think health care reform will allow you to drop health benefit plans and lower operating costs, but the more progressive, and ultimately more successful, employers will be those who recognize the provision of health benefits is a means of improving the health of their employees, and, ultimately, the health of their companies.

Former NFL professional athlete and UGA graduate Matt Stinchcomb serves as a client executive in the Atlanta office of Savannah-based Seacrest Partners where he assists middle-market and large corporate clients in developing innovative employee benefits and risk management strategies. Contact Matt at 404-602-5679 or matt.stinchcomb@seacrestpartners.com.

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