Health Care Coverage for Blue-collar vs. White-collar Employees

Health care coverage works best when it meets the unique needs of your staff. Not only do you want to cover commonly encountered health issues, but you want to provide relevant preventive care. A good first step is understanding the unique health differences between blue-collar and white-collar workers.

Blue-collar Health Needs

Blue-collar workers have greater physical requirements on the job. Their work may lead to muscle strain, back pain and similar chronic problems. These workers may also be forced to retire earlier than their counterparts, even if they still need the income, because of age-related conditions, the Star Tribune reported. In addition, recent studies have found that blue-collar workers are 40 percent more likely to have heart disease issues, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

White-collar Health Needs

White-collar workers tend to sit at a desk for long periods. Health risks that can accompany a sedentary lifestyle include heart disease, pancreas issues, back and spine problems and leg and bone issues, The Washington Post noted. They also have higher perceived stress levels from their jobs and are more likely to work longer hours, The New York Times explained. This can put them at a greater risk for depression or suicide, according to MarketWatch.

Choosing the Right Coverage

When choosing the right plans, look at the unique needs of your employees.

For blue-collar workers, consider:

  • Health plans with health savings accounts (HSAs) – Blue-collar workers may have lower incomes, so lower monthly premiums can be attractive. But they’ll also be drawn to HSAs, which roll over year-after-year and can be used after retirement.
  • Wellness programs – Focus on diet and nutrition. This can help lower cholesterol and prevent other conditions that can contribute to heart disease.
  • Comprehensive coverage – This should include in-network specialists who treat orthopedic issues or offer physical therapy. Consider plans that cover visits to a chiropractor, which may help with muscle strain.
  • Mental health coverage – Although they may not have as high of a suicide risk, it’s still there for blue-collar workers. So look for plans that offer good mental health coverage.

For white-collar workers, consider:

  • Wellness programs – These could include a gym membership, in-house yoga or exercise groups. Employees who spend a lot of time at their desk should be encouraged to exercise daily, alternate between sitting or standing at a desk and take frequent breaks.
  • Mental health coverage – This should include counseling to help with depression and the higher suicide risk with this work type.
  • Confidential addiction counseling – Plans that provide access to confidential addiction counseling. With a higher perceived stress level, white-collar workers may turn to substance abuse to help lower their stress.
  • Promote time off – White-collar workers may often work long hours and shy away from taking time off. Set up a culture that encourages vacation days and doctor’s visits.
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Of course, you ultimately want to provide comprehensive health care coverage that meets as many health needs as possible. But if you have budgetary concerns, it’s good to know where to focus your attention. Whether you employ blue-collar or white-collar workers, or a mix of both, look for ways to encourage your staff. This can include free time off for doctor’s visits, surprise vacation days and giving gifts, such as massage certificates for a little pampering.

Stephanie Dwilson has extensive experience providing expertise on topics including health, law and marketing. She’s a science journalist published by Fox News, a marketing expert and a non-practicing attorney with experience in personal injury law. She’s also a small business expert featured by Businessweek and has worked as a PR lead for one of the largest churches in America.

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