3 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2009

Tom Carter is vice president of sales and broker relations for Kaiser Permanente California, and he has more than 22 years in the health care industry in sales, marketing and account management. Carter leads Kaiser Permanente’s group sales team statewide and co-leads the broker development strategy. During his career, he’s focused on prevention, ranging from behavioral health care to promoting healthy living.

Q. How can you save on health care costs without spending money?

Look at what’s available for free. A lot of this is about education. People want access to more information so they know how to change their behavior. People, if you ask them, (say), ‘I know I have to increase my activity; I know I need to eat healthier. But I’m busy.’ Their lifestyle is such that someone needs to help them and coach them through what you can do based on your lifestyle.

Q. How can employers determine what programs will benefit their employees?

We just did a survey that had over 126,000 respondents. The top three (responses) seemed to match every other survey I’ve ever seen, which is help me with weight management; I’m interested in nutrition. Then the third area is — especially in today’s economy — I’d like to learn how to manage my stress. Ask your employees, ‘Which programs would you be more interested in so I can make sure they’re available to you?’

Q. How much time does an employer need to dedicate to promoting healthy living?

They need a champion, and it doesn’t always have to be the CEO or the CFO. You need to have sponsorship from the executive level even in a small company but usually somebody on staff has a passion for healthiness or having a healthy lifestyle. If you ask who wants to be our wellness champion this month … somebody will usually put their hand up. That’s been one successful kind of tactic. The other one is to the extent an employer is using a broker, the broker can act as that wellness administrator or champion and can come in and do monthly meetings.