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Posted on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 11:26 a.m.

'Unhealthy behaviors' spike health care costs, Thomson Reuters says in new calculation

By Nathan Bomey

Overeating, alcohol consumption, tobacco use and other "unhealthy behaviors" cost companies an average of $670 per employee in extra health care costs, according to a new calculation by an Ann Arbor-based division of information services giant Thomson Reuters.

The company today introduced a new annual calculation called the Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index to track health care costs associated with six key factors: body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and tobacco and alcohol use.

Those conditions accounted for 14 percent of privately insured employees' health care costs in 2009, Thomson Reuters found.

Obesity's effect on health care costs is particularly significant. The index found that of the $670 in additional health care costs attributed to unhealthy behaviors, $400 is connected with high body mass index.

The researchers also reported that $150 is attributed to high blood glucose.

Overall Thomson Reuters said that the U.S. population is gradually getting more unhealthy. On a scale of 100, where 100 equals "no behavioral risk factors present in the population," the U.S. ranked at 84.4 in 2009, down from 86.4 in 2005.

The measurement comes as policymakers and employers are actively considering ways to encourage healthy living as a key way to lower health care costs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 75 percent of health care costs are attributable to chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

"This analysis shows that employers striving to reduce healthcare costs would be wise to address the behavioral risk prevalence of their workforce," Thomson Reuters chief medical officer Raymond Fabius said in a statement. “This type of analysis generates real value by spotlighting areas for improvement. When employers, insurers and others take a close look at how their beneficiaries compare with national norms, they can begin to identify and target specific problem areas.”

Thomson Reuters is the second largest private sector employer in Washtenaw County. The company's health care business employs between 800 and 900 workers at the former 777 building on Eisenhower Parkway. The company's tax and accounting software business employs between 900 and 1,000 people at its division in Dexter.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

The problem with this AA News article, and hopefully not the report, is the phrase "alcohol use". Scientific studies have shown that moderate alcohol use may, in fact, confer health benefits. What I hope the report actually said was "alcohol abuse".

Nathan Bomey

Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

@Plubius From the Thomson Reuters press release: &gt;&gt;This decline in overall population health ? as measured by body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and tobacco and alcohol use ? contributes to rising healthcare costs for U.S. employers. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Dog Guy

Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

Did I miss someone mentioning motorcycling, skiing, adultery, and crossing streets near AATA busses?


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

Several of the &quot;behaviors&quot; listed by Reuters are factors that have heavy genetic components. Let's not stigmatize people for activities that they do not have control over. For example, researchers still are trying to figure out the causes of obesity and high cholesterol in not simply a matter of what one eats.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

posted by Moscowonthe huron &quot;There is a certain segment of the population that judges the legitimacy of laws based solely on whether it will cost or save them money.&quot; Tea Party?

Will Warner

Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 10:49 a.m.

An American is free to live as he likes. Americans who own businesses are free to take steps to minimize their costs. We are free to not work for companies that hector us about our lifestyles. This is all manageable in the realm of employer/employee. The problem will come, and it will be huge, when America fully accepts the notion of healthcare as a right, with everyone's healthcare funded by tax dollars. This will lock us into an inescapable battle over whose rights take precedence—inescapable because no one can opt out. I won't be able to say, &quot;Leave me alone and I'll take care of my own healthcare,&quot; and you won't be able to say &quot;As long as he is living as he does, I'm not paying for his healthcare.&quot; When all this comes to pass, your only option for controlling the costs you are bearing is to try to control how I live. It will be hell. I hope I'm dead by then, and considering the amount of wine I drink, I probably will be.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 2:39 a.m.

No risk health care for our government employees is a problem. High deductables encourage personnal responsibility for one's healthcare. The &quot;union concession&quot; of a 12,500 annual cap on insurance is meaningless if there is no deductable. I'd rather see a 50 dollar co pay, 1,000 hospital overnight stay, and a 15k cap..


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

I have no problem with anyone who feel they have a right to smoke, drink, get high, gain excessive weight, exceed the speed limit, skydive, bungee jump, enter rodeos or do any other unhealthy activity, but when it comes to health care, I have no problem with employers rejecting the unhealthy, smokers, etc. Overall health should have been factored into the health care law.

Moscow On The Huron

Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 1:57 a.m.

Doesn't matter, really. We'll be getting rid of that unconstitutional law pretty soon. anyway.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

Simple solution: use high deductible health insurance, possibly paired with Health Savings Accounts. If something unforeseen and expensive happens, you're covered, but otherwise you pay cash for whatever health care you need. The cost difference between Blue Cross and a high deductible plan is massive. When you pay costs directly you take better care of yourself and when you do need something you don't have to beg for permission. Repealing all farm subsidies would help too. Most go to well connected agribusiness giants that grow unhealthy grains, which the feds promote the consumption of for their corporatist partners. Getting rid of government financial distortion would help level the playing field between agribusiness and real farmers. Or we could go with the usual fascist solutions and mandate what food and exercise the rats in the maze get. As if we have to wonder which choice policy makers will pick.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

I'm tired of paying for other peoples sloth, greed, and consumption!! What a perfect storm the Baby Boomers are. The biggest generation in American History. Both is population and body mass. Now they are the unhealthiest and are going to suck the rest of us dry.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 8:11 p.m.

hum...I thought the WWII generation was the one that glamorized smoking, introduced us to fast-foods like McDonald's, and freely used abestos and pesticides which caused a staggering sharp increase in cancers, respitory diseases and related health care costs. The Baby Boomers were the ones fighting to get smoking-related advertizements and pesticides banned, make exercize and nutrition a priority and also fought to clean-up and prevent environmental hazards. Perhaps I'm mistaken. I do agree that I am tired of being sucked dry by taxes caused by irresponsible people. For instance, so much of our hard-earned taxes go to supporting an over-crowded prison system (in which most of the inmates are actually physically fit), and we're being charged outlandish car insurance fees to cover the costs of poor drivers. I also hate that everything I buy in stores is higher priced to cover the cost of shop-lifters. It's hard living in a world where so many people are imperfect.

Atticus F.

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Perhaps we could invite the insurance companies to our dinner tables, and our family recipe books so they can tell us what to eat, and how to alter our grandmother's recipes.

Moscow On The Huron

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

Great. Yet another tool with which the Nanny State crowd can oppress the rest of us.

Moscow On The Huron

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

I noticed that, too, looking at your post above. I had to re-read it a few times. Each time I read it I thought for sure I was missing something. Pretty funny.

Atticus F.

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

For once I'm in agreement with you.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

There's already a huge tax on 'healthy' people (WPH, non-smoking, exercise, non-alcoholic, safe driving, etc). That's the cost WE have to pay in order to support the needs, wants and demands of the unhealthy. Whether its extra wide airplane seats, more powerful airbags, heart attack drugs, titanium stretchers, power wheel chairs in every store, ambulances based on semi-truck chassis, 10,000 lb elevator capacity instead of 5,000 lb, ladder strength, extra judges and court personnel to try all the users and abusers. Heck, I'd be better off, according to my doctor, to withdraw from a healthcare plan because my healthcare needs are so little (routine physical, etc). Walking thru stores and seeing Jabba the Hut in every aisle makes me cringe because of the number of $250,000 heart attack recoveries, 911 calls and gasping meatball sub sounds i have to endure. And that's not bad cologne I smell, that would be vodka, tecquila, or Budwiser. Even our sewer systems have to be reconfigured because they just can't take it any more. Maybe I need legal protection because of my feelings instead of those unhealthy ones that are being discriminated against. There are good reasons for that stereotype. Its all around us. Put scales at every restaurant doorstep and give discounts to those whose WPH index is reasonable.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

You forgot to mention the high cost we all pay for supporting over-crowded prisons in which most of the prisoners are physically fit and nimble (guess they have to be in order to take on a life of crime). We're paying for their care too. I guess I'd rather fight about that, and the high cost of goods because of shop-lifters, than I would about people like my heavy friend who has done so much good for everyone in the community, including saving a life.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

Sorry for the typo I meant to say &quot;Is it because you know you 'can't&quot; predict your future&quot;. BTW, don't take this as a personal attack on you. I don't know you and you are probably the most decent of people, but it's the mindset that concerns me. We seem to want to seek blame and fault instead of solutions.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

Your doctor's advice sounds good. You should withdraw from your healthcare plan and save the money. Why don't you then? Is it because you are concerned that some day your care will cost a lot of money? Is it because you know you can predict your future? It seems to me that the idea that healthcare should only be awarded to the healthy misses the whole point of the concept...

Moscow On The Huron

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

What the heck is a &quot;gasping meatball sub sound?&quot;


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

Please don't tell Snyder.....he'll tax the fat people. He already taxes tobacco and alcohol


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

Don't forget to also address the behavioral risk prevalence of workers who drive carelessly, don't get adequate sleep, are in abusive or dysfunctional relationships, are under financial stress, work too much, work in stressful environments, are over-extended in taking care of elderly parents and/or grandchildren, just to name a few more behaviorally risky choices that contribute to medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

This could have interesting implications. We saw Whole Foods initiate this controversial conversation last year with incentives for their employees. The tricky part is aiming for healthy employees (who will ultimately save the company is, after all, a business) as opposed to healthy looking employees by not simply using BMI. I am healthy, exercise, am not addicted to anything and would like to be rewarded for the money I save my company. I also have enough money to buy healthy food, few genetic illnesses, have an education to know these things, and have the time to exercise. There are underlying issues of socio-economic status and genetic predisposition that will need to be addressed. Companies can also provide assistance to employees through programs. I used to get a very small stipend to bike to work. At my current place of employment I have a gym I can use. It would be interesting to see if there is direct causation between a company providing health initiatives and lower health care costs.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

&quot;would like to be rewarded for the money I save my company...&quot; Like you, I also enjoy good health, a good job and some similar perks that encourage a healthy life style. Sounds to me like both you and I are, indeed, rewarded--already. You have enough money to buy healthy food, you have the time to exercise, your company gives you a gym and you had a stipend to bike to work. Most importantly, you are healthy and will likely live longer thanks to a good salary and many employment perks--not the least of which is paid health care. Upon your retirement, you will probably live a long life collecting social security and using Medicare and Medicare prescription drug coverage--age affects even the healthiest. Also, eventually you will die and there's no way you can predict your cause of illness and death won't be long term and chronic in your old age. The costs of health care coverage for the aged is huge. Contrast that to the cost of paying for the 55 year old who dies suddenly of a heart attack due to his obesity, or other unhealthy choice. My point is that choices don't necessarily define results or even costs. You probably have earned every bit of your pay and your benefits and that's good. But, that doesn't mean you should insist that the world be cloned in your image or else those persons have to pay a greater &quot;share&quot;. Because, what defines &quot;fair share&quot; changes constantly with changing circumstances throughout our lives. Ultimately, you may find that you'll be asked to do the same when you least can afford it.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

You're fortunate having those things where you work. I sort of have that. The &quot;gym&quot; is twice the cost of other facilities. The cafeteria is loaded with mostly junk and everything is costly, besides being suspect because the the conditions.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Wellllll good for you...Snyder will tax you on that very small stipend now that he knows.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

Well as soon that all companies give there employees a gym and a cafeteria with food grown from organic farms we all be healthers .so Stop monsanto. dow chemical and all big farms . let our cow and chicken out into the green grass ,we need stronger food and no more chemical in our food, garden and even let our GRSS go green again. no more chemical they kill and grow cancer.

Atticus F.

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

This is just another excuse to be intolerant of other peoples choices.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

sooo moscow...'incredible' in a good way or a bad way?? if the former, thanks.. .if the latter, 'incredible' back at ya.

Atticus F.

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

bedrog, this article is nothing more than a tool to make people angry at others. At what point do we draw the line on dangerous behavior? Should I be punished for eating lasagna? Also, no body is forcing you to be on your companies insurance. if you dont want to pay into a pool that insures unhealthy people then you have the choice not to pay or to quit your job...You do not however, have the right to deny them insurance.

Moscow On The Huron

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

&quot;atticus...if &quot; living life as they please' includes smoking, alcoholism, doping , shark-wrestling, drag racing, bullfighting etc...without any corresponding attempts at therapies to quit..i have a right to be intolerant of such choices if their insurance rates are on my tab.&quot; This is absolutely incredible.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

atticus...if &quot; living life as they please' includes smoking, alcoholism, doping , shark-wrestling, drag racing, bullfighting etc...without any corresponding attempts at therapies to quit..i have a right to be intolerant of such choices if their insurance rates are on my tab. I deliberately omit abortion because the reasons for it are so medically multiple and often legitimate and humane. But by all means enjoy your compass-free existance.

Moscow On The Huron

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

There is a certain segment of the population that judges the legitimacy of laws based solely on whether it will cost or save them money.

Atticus F.

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

bedrog, your right to cheap insurance does not outweigh someone elses right to live life as they please. And jcj, I happen to have friends, and a father who are bible thumping evangelical republicans. I'm completely tolerant of their rights to believe what they want, and to say what they want. Just as I'm free to walk away from them when I find their rantings offensive.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

Most of us are tolerant of other peoples &quot;choices&quot;. As long as they are the same as ours. It easy to be &quot;tolerant&quot; of others health choices. But what about there political leanings? Not so tolerant there eh?


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

some choices are stupid, self and socially destructive, and costly to others who make better ones. And this from a 'liberal', but one with some grounding in reality.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

Employers are already able to drug test you. When can we expect to see test of a similar type for blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, etc?