By Sherkiya Wedgeworth

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Wellness programs: What's it worth to you?

What would it take for you to participate in your employer’s wellness program?

A cash reward? A personal health gain? A reduced premium? A financial penalty?

Wellness programs that aim to promote smoking cessation, weight loss, healthy eating and reduce chronic illness susceptibility have proven to be valuable in the workplace because healthier employees means less money spent on healthcare. But encouraging participation does not come easy.

A RAND survey on wellness programs and incentives found that 69 percent of employers with more than 50 employees offered a wellness program, and 75 percent of programs offered participation incentives. About 33 percent of firms with 50 to 100 employees, and about 80 percent of those with more than 1,000 employees had a wellness program, of those, about 60 percent of the smallest employers and 90 percent of other employers used mostly monetary incentives to promote participation.

The programs surveyed fell into several categories based on the types of services it offered:  limited, comprehensive, screening, prevention and intervention.

They found that a comprehensive program—one that is well designed and offers extensive services—is more effective than offering incentives for participation.

The participation for comprehensive programs was 59 percent compared with 51 percent for programs that offered high cash reward incentives, such $100 or more.

And when a large employer penalized its employees for not using a smoking cession program by imposing a $600 penalty, participation only increased 8.5 percent.

“Our findings question whether employers’ enthusiasm for incentives, which have the unintended consequence of shifting cost to employees with poor health, is warranted,” researchers conclude.

Posted on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:42 PM

Reader comments

Tue, Nov 3, 2015 Ole Timer

One of the most "abused" programs that the Government offers. Most of the ones that I see who are supposed to participating are going to the commissary or PX during that taxpayer expense. It should be done away with or monitored more closely by responsible supervisors.

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