What We’re Reading – Companies Increase Wellness Incentive Dollars

A large number of U.S. companies have begun to increase the dollar value of employee incentives to participate in wellness programs which will improve employee overall health and ultimately lower the cost of providing company group insurance. Statistics supporting this move were derived from an employer survey conducted by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health, and included a national sample of U.S. companies ranging in size from 1,000 to  100,000 employees. The survey completed during the period of Nov 1-Dec 30, 2011 included data on condition-management services, lifestyle management services and health risk management services.

Top findings of survey:

  • 3 out of 4 companies used incentives to get employees involved in health improvement programs
  • The average incentive offered was $430 in 2010 and $260 in 2009.
  • Different types of incentives were offered including cash, gift cards and contributions to HSAs.
  • The incentive-based programs had a better -than -expected success rate
  • Program costs to employers have increased since 2009 with the average for 2011 being $154.
  • Smoking cessation and EAPs are the most common programs being offered in the workplace but healthy cafeteria food options  have become prevalent with 51% of the companies surveyed that currently having those options in place and an additional 16% expected to introduce these options in 2012

More importantly, this excellent survey summarizes the right steps an organization can take to maximize returns on their investments in this area and ultimately realize a healthier workplace:

Secure commitment from senior management. Employees are more likely to engage when there is encouragement from senior executives.
Align programs with the health risks and challenges of the workforce. Determine what the pressing health issues are (such as high blood pressure) and offer solutions. Don’t offer diabetes management services if that illness is not a significant health risk for most workers.
Set realistic goals and measure results. Define what the desired behavior is (e.g., weight loss) and track it.
Offer incentives that appeal to the workforce. Collect feedback from employees on what is appealing and discontinue incentives that aren’t working.
Manage vendors by establishing performance requirements. Employers should consolidate employee data collected from multiple vendors and measure the results. Vendors should be held accountable if the results fall short of objectives.”

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