Don’t miss this fascinating blog post by the WashPost’s Ezra Klein, in my native state for some sort of Cleveland Clinic event, about how that respected health-care institution pulled off this miracle:
With 40,000 employees, the clinic is the second-largest employer in Ohio. Like most employers, it struggles to contain health-care costs. But according to Michael Roizen, the clinic’s director of wellness, over the past seven years a series of reforms instituted by the clinic’s chief executive officer, Delos Cosgrove, slowed and then arrested the growth in employee health-care costs at the clinic. This year, inflation-adjusted spending might actually fall — an all but unprecedented achievement in employer-based insurance.
The clinic took a look at grim reality — 70 percent of health-care costs are connected to smoking, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and stress — and reacted accordingly.
“We want to make it easy for you to do healthy things and hard for you to do unhealthy things,” (the clinic’s director of wellness) said.
Smokers were first banished from campus, then from the work force. (Yes, even doctors were fired for smoking on campus.) The hospital’s food services stopped offering deep-fried and trans-fat options. This part was particularly interesting:
That left fitness and stress relief. The first step was easy: Offer free fitness and stress-management classes. But the clinic still had to get its employees to attend. So they reversed the normal calculus. Usually, you have to pay to hit the gym or attend a yoga class. If you work for the Cleveland Clinic, you have to pay if you don’t.
And so on. But guess what? It worked. Workers are thinner, have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and barely 6 percent are still smoking. But, as Klein points out, a hospital can get away with this, claiming that projecting a message of wellness, top to bottom, is part of their core mission. Could General Motors? Hmm.
Personally, I’d love to work for an employer that picks up my gym membership, or provides one on site, where the vending machines and cafeteria don’t dispense swill, where smoking isn’t even permitted in the parking lot. But my wellness support looks like nanny-statism to others, and Big Healthy Brother to someone else.
I hear about things like this, and I think about World War II, in which national solidarity was the rule, and we could accomplish anything, and did. But that was only for four years. If the campaign against global fascism had taken as long as the war on terror, I doubt we’d still be happily practicing blackout drills and volunteering for scrap-metal drives. But with the right sort of motivation and a certain take-it-or-leave-it push from behind, we really can accomplish great things.
Here’s something else I read the other day that I found fascinating: Do you know how motorists in the Netherlands open their driver’s-side doors? Think about it. Like almost every driver in this country, when you’re preparing to get out of your car, you probably reach for the door latch with your left hand. I do, certainly. But virtually everyone in the Netherlands gets around on bicycles when they can, and motorists and cyclists must find a way to co-exist on the same roads. Cyclists everywhere know to exercise extreme caution when riding close to a line of parked cars, keeping an eye out for the so-called door-swing incident. Getting doored can shut out your lights quick, and in worst-case scenarios, send you sprawling into the path of traffic with nothing but your ribcage to protect your internal organs. When you’re riding, you always remember that the vast majority of American motorists open doors heedlessly once they’re parked.
But in the Netherlands, drivers are trained to open their doors with their right hands, never their left. Reaching across your body rotates your torso just enough to put your rear-view mirror in your line of sight. It requires you to consider what’s coming up behind you.
I wonder why so many initiatives in this country that ask us to consider the general welfare of others — whether it’s the employer who picks up our health insurance costs or the man on the bicycle — is greeted with a scowl, a shrug and “It’s a free country.”
Y’all think on that today, or maybe you’d rather discuss the OMG story out of central Ohio yesterday, with a great OMG headline: Posse hunts down wild animals on lam. (Kirk, I know space is a consideration in headline-writing, but I really missed the “the” in that one.) Hey Martha, here’s a story for you:
ZANESVILLE, Ohio — Dozens of wild animals — from bears to lions to wolves — were running loose in Muskingum County yesterday, apparently set free from their cages.
Meanwhile, the man who owned the animals was found dead on the wildlife preserve that he ran, authorities said.
The sheriff’s department is roaming the countryside with a shoot-to-kill order, schools have been closed, residents are being warned to stay inside (to avoid the deputies as much as the bears, I’d think) and by the end of this, a Columbus TV station helicopter will crash and burn. Muskingum County is a pretty rural place, full of deer hunters, and my guess is one will shoot another very soon, if they haven’t already. My sister, monitoring the situation from suburban Columbus, says the sheriff has already displayed the amusing accent of almost-Appalachia in his TV standups, talking about going after those “wuffs,” i.e., the doglike creature known as canis lupus.
And no, no one knows what happened to the owner. My guess is, it’s a suicide/liberation, although I’m sure homicide is a strong possibility, too. The second-day story will surely be how Ohio’s lax laws allow yahoos like this to keep wild zoos on private property. (Scowl, shrug, “It’s a free country.”) I recall visiting one of these during my time as a reporter there, a place down in the Hocking Hills run by two stoners who took in retired circus animals, drug dealers’ pet ocelots and other exotics. Their tiger-feeding procedure was for one to enter the cage with the meat while the other stood outside with a .357 Magnum, in case of emergencies.
I assume one or both has been eaten by the big cats by now or, more likely, gone broke feeding them.
As is usually the case in these incidents, I feel worse for the bears than I do the people. Who wouldn’t?
OK, it’s an office-hours day and I still have a story to write before I head out. Have a swell Wednesday, all. Once we’re over the hump, it’s smooth sailing into the weekend.