Starting January 1, 2014, yet another important aspect of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, kicks in, and in this case, it could be one of of the most important pieces of the legislation, one designed to not only provide healthcare coverage to more Americans but also encourage them to take a more proactive role in our individual wellness.
Section 2705(j) of the law creates two separate types of group health insurance wellness programs: participatory and health-contingent. In the case of participatory wellness programs, no health or wellness standards are required to be met. Health-contingent programs, on the other hand, can "require an individual to satisfy a standard related to a health factor to obtain a reward," to quote the Employee Benefits Security Administration summary. Those rewards can include discounts or rebates on insurance premiums or contributions, waivers of deductibles, copayments, coinsurnace, as well as other types of either financial or nonfinancial incentives such as PTO and reward points.
The aim of the both programs is to encourage employees to take more responsibility for their health and wellness using social, psychological and/or financial rewards or disincentives, such as imposing hefty premium surcharges on smokers.
Besides smoking, two of the biggest health problems in America, and increasingly elsewhere in the world, are heart disease and diabetes, both largely related to obesity, which itself is the product of diet and inactivity. Basically, we too much of the wrong foods and burn off too little of it day-in and day-out. What our muscles don't burn, our body stores as fat around our wastes (men) and thighs (women).
Corporate Commuter Wellness
Enter ePEDALER's corporate commuter wellness program. The idea is simple: get more workers to leave their cars at home and ride bicycles to work, and for those who need the help, electric-assist bicycles. Instead of sitting an hour every day in stuck in traffic, a corporate commuter would ride to and from work, at least some of the time, on an e-bike that is leased or their employer helped them buy.
Now, of course, this assumes they live within a reasonable distance of the workplace and have a safe, convenient route to ride, so it won't be for everyone. But for those who can participate, it not only can mean a better level of health but also direct savings to the pocket book in terms of lower transportation costs and health insurance savings.
Sounds like a great idea doesn't it? So, why do I need an energy display like the illustration above on an e-bike?
Well, actually, most electric-assist bicycles already have one, of sorts. Like a Nissan LEAF, they show how much battery charge you have left. The more you ride and use the electric-assist motor, the less energy is available from the battery, which is typically depicted in bars, like the display I created below.
But an electric-assist bicycle is really a hybrid, like the Prius. Some of the energy comes from the battery, some of it from you, the rider. So, like a Prius, I want to know how much energy comes from which source. That information can be very useful.
If you know that you burned 500 calories of human energy on your ride into work, along with 150 watts of electric energy, you have a way to verifying not just your level of physical activity, but more importantly, your level of progress towards meeting your employer health-contingent wellness plan goals. For example, you will know that last month, over the same route, you averaged 430 calories and 210 watts of electric energy. The more calories you burn versus watts of electric power, the fitter you're becoming.
At least, that's the theory. The challenge here is that no one, to my knowledge, makes a bicycle display that works this way. So, I am opening up a crowd-sourcing challenge to my readers. How would you engineer a way to create a human-electric hybrid display for an electric assist bicycle?
Design me a working prototype and we'll test it on the University of Nebraska Omaha's pair of Currie electric bicycles. And if it works, I'll find the money to turn it into a marketable product.
Posted By: Bill Moore [20-May-2013]
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