On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in an effort to set the health of our nation in a different direction … one focused on prevention and proactive care. Primary areas of focus (in general terms) include:
- Increasing access to affordable care
- Improving quality and lowering costs
- Preventing disease and illness
What started out as a great idea and initiative become official on June 28, 2012, when the Supreme Court ruled that the health care law is constitutional. For more information on the PPACA, click here.
But what does that really mean for the future of the fitness industry? What effect does it have on industry growth? In what ways will it contribute to new opportunities in business and career development?
The fitness industry is dedicated to preventing disease and improving quality of life through exercise and physical activity. These initiatives are aligned with the goals of the PPACA. The challenge over the next few years will be to “bridge the gap” between policy and implementation in an effort to get Americans more proactive with their health to ensure they have a better quality of life.
The Prevention and Public Health Fund
The Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund is to designed to expand and sustain the necessary capacity to prevent disease, detect it early, manage conditions before they become severe, and provide states and communities the resources they need to promote healthy living. The $10 billion fund (originally $15 billion), allocated over ten years, will be distributed to states and communities to boost prevention and public health efforts, improve health, enhance health care quality and foster the next generation of primary health professionals. The funds are dedicated to expanding on four critical priorities:
- Community prevention (including obesity prevention and fitness)
- Clinical prevention (including employer wellness programs)
- Public Health infrastructure and training
- Research and tracking
The government has invested in a long term plan dedicated to the proactive health and wellness of Americans. The goal of this initiative is to get the country statistically healthier by 2020. This works in conjunction with the Healthy People 2020 campaign spearheaded by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). For more information on Healthy People 2020 visit www.healthypeople.gov.
Bridging the Gap Between Health Care and the Fitness Industry
Research proves that exercise has a role in the treatment and prevention of over 40 chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hypertension. If started early enough, exercise and physical activity are powerful tools that can reverse the effects of these conditions and can provide the foundation for a life free of these diseases. Regular exercise has been recognized as a “magic bullet” as the country takes aggressive steps towards reversing the effects of nationwide obesity over the next ten years.
- Most U.S. Citizens and legal residents must have health insurance.
- Employers must offer health insurance coverage to their employees (employers with 50+ full-time employees).
- Grants are available for small businesses to establish wellness programs (up to $50,000 over three years).
By producing policies that direct all Americans in the same preventive direction, the goal is to develop healthy habits over time for the next generation to follow and pass on. Let’s take a closer look at the policies listed above and what that means to the fitness industry.
Mandatory Health Insurance for U.S. Citizens
Most U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to have health insurance. In an effort to get 94% of the population covered by some form of health care, “health insurance exchanges” were developed to offer insurance options for individuals who did not have access to an employer-sponsored insurance or a public plan (ie. Medicare or Medicaid). The bad news (for those not covered by their employer or Medicare/Medicaid) may be that everyone is now required to have health insurance coverage. The good news (for the rest of us) is insurance companies are being pressured to keep pricing consistent and competitive for standardized packages.
How would this affect the fitness industry?
- People will be motivated to find ways to lower their insurance premiums
- People will want to get the most out of their insurance coverage (now that they pay for it)
The healthier you are, the lower your insurance premium. If you are unhealthy and “at risk” for preventable disease, your insurance premiums sky rocket. As people become more educated about the cost savings of being more healthy and fit they will most likely seek out fitness services and support (ie. fitness club membership, personal training) because the cost of the services are far less than the long term cost savings for insurance payments.
In today’s “value” economy, people are looking to get the most out of their health insurance. Some health insurance plans provide reimbursements for fitness club memberships, program fees, home fitness equipment and personal training (check with your insurance provider to see what is covered/reimbursed through their plans). For more information on Health Insurance Exchanges click here.
Mandatory Health Insurance Provided by Employers (50+ full time employees)
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits 2011 Annual Survey, employers are the principle source of health insurance for over 150 million non-elderly workers in America. With over 230 million employed workers in the U.S. (July 2011) that would mean over 130 million are not covered by an employer sponsored insurance plan. The changes to the PPACA are designed to change this trend.
With many employer sponsored insurance plans, the employer and employee split the cost of the monthly premiums. Both parties are looking to get the cost of the insurance premiums down and get the most value for what they are paying for.
Grants for Employee Wellness Programs (small businesses)
Small businesses (less than 100 employees that work 25+ hours/week) can take advantage of grant funding to establish a workplace wellness program. A budget of $200 million has been set aside in support of this program (available until 2015). To qualify for the grant the workplace wellness program must include four components:
- Initiatives that include health education, preventive screenings and health risk assessments.
- Mechanisms to maximize employee participation and engagement.
- Initiatives to change unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices, including counselling, seminars, online programs and self-help materials.
- Supportive environment efforts that include workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity and improved mental health.
This initiative opens the door to opportunities for fitness professionals to offer onsite services and to establish workplace wellness programs that involve fitness and exercise. As the area of corporate wellness grows the job opportunities will also expand. The infusion of funds from this initiative will also drive a higher demand in the upcoming years.
For more information on wellness grants for small businesses, click here.
Next Steps for the Fitness Industry …
With the upcoming Presidential Election (November 12, 2012) it will be interesting to see how these initiatives continue to roll out. Until then, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act being recognized by the Senate is a huge step in securing resources for a healthier tomorrow. With the establishment of the PPACA, fitness professionals have an exciting opportunity to do more with their knowledge and skills … but only if they choose to take action.
The article is featured in the book, “The Business of Personal Training”. For more information on the fitness business and tools for the fitness entrepreneur, click here.