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CFOs Emerge as Champions of Healthcare Benefits

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, February 15, 2012

Thomas Parry, president of the Integrated Benefits Institute, likes to tell a story about a vice president of wellness preparing to make a 15-minute presentation for the leadership team at her company. In a practice session with the company CFO, she talked about wellness efforts in terms of fewer ER visits and shorter hospital stays. The CFO stopped her. "You'll lose them in five minutes," he said. He suggested that she focus on what an unhealthy worker could mean for lost worker productivity. Her revamped presentation began with a simple statistic: If wellness benefits helped the company's 60,000 employees save one day of lost time per person, it would translate into $19 million in productivity gains.

The point, says Parry, is that the CFO is emerging as a champion of the importance of workforce health in business, and health plans need to plug into that energy by becoming a partner in the effort rather than just remaining a vendor.

About 10 years ago, Parry's group began looking into the role CFOs play in healthcare decisions. The CFO view of healthcare benefits has shifted from one based on cost centers to a business strategy basis. Recent survey results from IBI demonstrate that CFOs view employee health as having an impact on financial performance and productivity, in both conventional measures (healthcare expenses, sick day absences, overtime, and temporary workers) and ways that are less conventional and more difficult to measure (missed revenue opportunities, reduced product and service quality, and excess labor costs).

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