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November 2016  Volume 14, Number 11        


Wellness Programs Work…If Employees Participate

Getting employees to participate is the key to making wellness programs effective. Read on for some suggestions.

While employee wellness programs help reduce health costs, improve productivity and reduce sick days, a new report by the Dallas-based company HealthMine found many employees don’t participate or engage in these programs.

Of employees surveyed, 62 percent say wellness programs help lower their healthcare costs, 38 percent say the programs helped them take fewer sick days and 33 percent say the programs helped them be more productive at work.

Yet, only 35 percent of consumers report engaging in their wellness programs at least once per week and 25 percent of consumers engage in their programs just two times per year or less.

“Despite $8 billion invested annually by U.S. health plan sponsors in wellness programs that promise health improvements for participants, participation rates in wellness programs are low and plan sponsors struggle to engage members,” authors of the report wrote.

The report found 44 percent of consumers in wellness programs report being diagnosed with chronic health conditions, but only 14 percent say their wellness program helps them manage the disease. Nearly half of all adults in the United States have one or more chronic health conditions. These conditions are responsible for seven out of every 10 deaths and account for 86 percent of health care spending.

“Our survey shows that wellness programs are still heavily focused on lifestyle management rather than disease prevention and management,” the authors wrote.

Most large employers that offer health benefits today also offer wellness programs. About three in 10 large employers use incentives to encourage employees to participate.

The HealthMine survey found a large gap between the intent of wellness programs and the care delivered.

The most common wellness programs offered today, according to participants, are fitness subsidies or challenges (54 percent), nutrition/healthy eating (54 percent), onsite events (23 percent), financial wellbeing (16 percent) and medication adherence (16 percent). “While most participants report that their program includes health risk assessments, fitness subsidies and healthy eating plans, far fewer say their programs offers disease management or medication adherence plans,” the authors wrote.

Cancer is the No. 2 cause of death in the U.S., and is projected to become the leading cause of death over the next 15 years.

Despite this, cancer screenings are absent from 74 percent of wellness programs, participants reported. Also, 80 percent of wellness program members say they don’t get incentives to complete cancer screenings.

Health plan sponsors have an opportunity to be an early detection system for their members. In fact, new research shows cancer may be preventable by implementing changes in health behaviors. Most respondents say wellness programs do not include cancer screenings for the most prevalent forms of cancer:

  • 84 percent don’t include prostate cancer screenings.
  • 84 percent don’t include skin cancer screenings.
  • 81 percent don’t include breast cancer screenings.
  • 81 percent don’t include colon cancer screenings.

“By offering a cancer screening incentive in their wellness programs, plan sponsors can play a more proactive role in early detection, which can save lives and reduce the emotional and financial burden of the disease,” the authors wrote.

Two thirds of consumers say their wellness programs don’t medically test for smoking. Further, 57 percent of wellness programs do not include smoking cessation, according to those surveyed, although 32 percent of survey respondents admitted to smoking within the last two years. “Employers may be missing an opportunity to eliminate one of the costliest health risks in their population,” the authors wrote.

Engagement in employee wellness programs is a two-way street, and to make measureable improvements in health outcomes, employers must be actively helping wellness program members manage their health, the authors wrote.

“However, less than half of program participants report that their program sends them specific health actions to take at least once a week,” the authors wrote. “Incentives play an important role in behavior change, and 68 percent of respondents say that more motivating incentives would help them engage more in their wellness program. “

For a review and evaluation of your wellness program, or for assistance in starting one, please contact us.

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In this issue:

This Just In...

Is Your Health Plan Ready for 2017?

Wellness Programs Work…If Employees Participate

Consistency Creates Big 401(k) Nest Eggs

Voluntary Benefits Help Reduce Financial Stress



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