Workforce.com

TOOL Investing in Maternal and Child Health

July 1, 2008

The special health care needs of children and mothers—and their associated costs—often go overlooked by employers, leading to stress for employees and lost productivity, according to health benefits experts who have published a "tool kit" aimed at helping employers better tailor their health benefits to address those costs.

    The National Business Group on Health, through a grant from the federal government’s Maternal and Child Health Resources and Services Administration, has published the tool kit to help employers structure health benefits that provide optimum health care for children, adolescents and pregnant women. Implementing the recommendations of the tool kit "will lead to a healthier workforce," says Peter C. van Dyck, associate administrator for the maternal and child health agency.

    The case studies in the tool kit look at the impact of these efforts at Marriott and AOL. They show returns on investment that offset the cost of implementing the tool kit’s recommendations, estimated by actuarial audits to increase costs by 6 percent to 8 percent.

    "This tool kit allows employers to make informed benefit decisions … good, smart decisions on their health benefit design and how to invest their benefit dollars," says Lew Yeouze, worldwide partner, Mercer Government Human Services Consulting. "They can also use this to tailor their approach to their specific needs."

    Among the recommendations in the tool kit are that employers cover 26 child health care visits at 100 percent of the cost in order to detect and manage problems before they develop into chronic diseases, and to ensure that children receive immunizations.

    The tool kit is especially helpful for employers whose workforces include a high proportion of female employees of childbearing age, says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health.

    To access the tool kit, click here.