Companies Increase Wellness Incentive Dollars

By: Stephen Miller, Originally Posted on Society for Human Resource Management, March 5, 2012

Most U.S. companies plan to increase the dollar value of the incentives they offer employees to participate in health improvement programs in 2012, according to an employer survey conducted by Fidelity Investments and the not-for-profit National Business Group on Health.

The survey was fielded Nov. 1-Dec. 30, 2011, among a national sample of U.S. companies ranging in size from 1,000 to 100,000 employees. It is the latest in a series of studies Fidelity and the Business Group have conducted since 2009 to analyze the growth of health improvement programs in the workplace. These programs typically consist of condition-management services (such as managing insulin treatments), lifestyle management services (such as weight loss advice) and health risk management services (such as on-site flu shots).

Among the top findings from the survey:

• Almost three out of four companies (73 percent) used incentives to engage employees in health improvement programs.

• The average incentive value was $460That figure has increased steadily from an average of $430 in 2010 and $260 in 2009.

• Employers used different types of incentives, including cash, gift cards and contributions to health savings accounts.

• Incentive-based programs had a better-than-expected success rate at increasing employee participation, the majority (57 percent) agreed.

“Incentives have come a long way from a free T-shirt and a water bottle,” said Adam Stavisky, senior vice president of Fidelity’s benefits consulting business, which commissioned the study with the Business Group. “As companies have increased their commitment and investment in health improvement programs, they have made their incentives more enticing. They have also learned which programs resonate best with their workforce, whether that involves on-site flu shots or weight loss challenges. Now employers are starting to see results from their efforts.”

More Tie Wellness Participation to Health Coverage

A small but growing number of companies are requiring employees to participate in health improvement programs in order to be eligible for medical benefits. The survey found that:

• Biometric testing. In 2011, 5 percent of companies required their workers to complete biometric testing (such as cholesterol screening) or be excluded from coverage. That number was expected to nearly double in 2012 to 9 percent.

• Health risk assessments. Likewise, 7 percent of companies required completion of a health risk assessment in 2011. In 2012, 10 percent of companies will require it.

“Employers are increasingly expecting employees to take steps to improve their health, conditioning even access to health benefits on meeting certain requirements,” said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the Business Group. “This isn’t surprising given how much control employees can have over their own health and how much poor health habits cost employers.”

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One Comment on “Companies Increase Wellness Incentive Dollars”

  1. Glad I came across this blog posting. Do you find that companies are more likely to invest in wellness programs that focus on the visible (e.g. physical health, body weight, etc.) as they are on programs geared to improving the non-visible health (emotional and psychological health)?


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