Healthy Habits And The Bottom Line


It's lunchtime at the Scotts Miracle-Gro headquarters near Columbus, Ohio, and the eating is healthy.

"I'll have some salmon," a worker said.

That's because the company that helps Americans grow their gardens is trying to trim its workers waists — and $24 million pear year in health care costs.

So there's a full time doctor and a new clinic, which is free to workers and families enrolled in the company medical plan. There is a drive through pharmacy with generic drugs — and right next door: the new gym. It's also free to those who work out more than twice a week. Otherwise, it's just ten dollars a month.

Presiding over this $5 million gamble is CEO Jim Hagedorn.

"It's partly about money and keeping our costs under control," Hagedorn told CBS News correspondent Jerry Bowen. "And it's partly about saying, 'Why would you wanna work a whole career here at Scotts, retire and die?'"

It all sounds so good — and if it works it may become the national model for curbing corporate health care costs. But it's a carrot and stick approach.

The stick is what happens to smokers. If they won't quit, they won't have a job at Scotts.

Thirty percent of Scotts' 5,300 U.S. workers smoke. And it's estimated that smokers cost an extra $4,000 a year each for health care and lost productivity. Scotts has already banned smoking on the job. Next October, workers must stop altogether.

Employee Kim Creviston is a pack-a-day smoker.

"You're drawing the line here," Creviston said. "But he is giving you a choice. If you choose not to quit, then you choose to get a different job. And I truly believe that we will forsee other companies doing this."

And that worries employment law attorney Marvin Gittler: "Once you leave, once you conclude your eight hours, frankly it's none of the employer's business what you do," Gittler said. "I think letting the employer go beyond those eight hours is much too dangerous."

Hagedorn, once a two-pack-a-day smoker, quit after his mother died of lung cancer. He says workers will get help to stop. And as long as they really try, they won't be fired, which they can be in Ohio and 19 other states.

In states where they can't be fired because of smokers' rights laws, they'll pay extra for health insurance.

"This is not trying to take things away from folks," Hagedorn said. "This is about trying to keep our costs so that they're not rising sort of in excess of the rate of inflation. And I think we can do that if we run our wellness programs properly."

Change is never easy, but it's the new reality for these workers. And if it works, everybody's bottom line will look better.