An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This well-known adage speaks volumes when it comes to LIUNA health and welfare fund participants…and your health and welfare fund. The best patients are the ones who never enter the health care system – those who maintain their good health.

In his recent address to the American Medical Association, President Barack Obama said, “The (second) step that we can all agree on is to invest more in preventive care so we can avoid illness and disease in the first place. That starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. Building a health care system that promotes prevention rather than just managing diseases will require each of us to do our part.”

According to government survey data, 44 percent of Americans had at least one chronic medical condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol or cancer in 2005 (most recent data available). The sedentary life-styles and processed food diets of many Americans have produced a dramatic increase in obesity which corresponds with the increase in reported cases of diabetes.

More than 20 million Americans have diabetes, and 6.2 million of them are not even aware that they have the disease. Yet, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death, and the cost of its treatment is estimated to be $132 billion a year. LIUNA health and welfare funds are seeing an increase in the number of claims related to diabetes care.

As trustees for a LIUNA health and welfare fund, you are uniquely positioned to have an impact on the health and well-being of Laborers and their eligible dependents.

By including benefits for routine physical examinations and screenings, you encourage fund participants to work with their medical providers to identify life-style habits that may have a negative impact on their overall health. You also help to ensure that conditions such as diabetes are diagnosed at an early stage when treatment can be most effective. Disease management programs help ensure that participants are compliant with their prescribed treatment plans – keeping regular medical appointments, taking medications and getting refills in a timely manner.

Although it is difficult to identify immediate savings related to the implementation of wellness benefits, long-term benefits for the participant and the fund are more apparent. By either preventing a disease such as diabetes or getting an early diagnosis and proper treatment, participants can have both improved health and a better quality of life. Moreover, since diseases are more costly to treat when they are not identified until they reach a later stage, the fund not only saves money, but the money that is spent can help participants maintain a better quality of life – and have longer, more productive careers as Laborers.

For more information on preventive benefits, please contact the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division.